Debate on future energy in Ireland goes nuclear

20 Nov 2009

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There is no logical justification for the ban on the use of nuclear power in Ireland, according to Dr Tom O’Flaherty, former chief executive of the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland and leading expert on nuclear energy.

O’Flaherty, was speaking at an Engineers Ireland lecture on energy also addressed by Jim Barry, chief executive, NTR plc.

Questioning the Government’s stance on the issue of nuclear energy, O’Flaherty said: “As a potentially cost-effective, low-carbon source of base-load electricity for Ireland, I strongly believe nuclear energy should be objectively assessed on its technical and economic merits. To ban it by law as we now do has no logical justification.

A look at other countries

“It has been shown in many countries such as France, Spain, Switzerland and Finland to be a secure, dependable and economical source of power. As a technology which is proven and carbon-free, to exclude the consideration of nuclear power is scarcely a prudent approach to the major energy problems that confront us.”

Barry said the global model of economic and industrial development was changing fundamentally, posing new complex challenges for policy makers across energy management.

“The world is facing a ‘Perfect Storm’ of change shaped by the macro forces of climate change, energy insecurity and resource depletion. Renewable energy will become a significant part of the electricity generation mix over the next 15 years.

“Countries need to consider which renewable resource they are best positioned to exploit. Ireland needs to do more than set targets. We need cohesive support mechanisms and incentives combined with the alignment of the various arms of the State – including semi-state organisations – to achieve the targets.”

A challenging issue

Engineers Ireland director general John Power said: “Energy management is fast becoming one of the most challenging and intractable issues not just for Ireland but globally. The objective of this lecture has been to look objectively at Ireland’s current approach to energy management across cost, reliability and safety, and foster open debate and discussion.”

There was also a contribution from Energy Needs Ireland (ENI), an undergraduate summer research project made up of engineering and economics students from all over Ireland studying at UCD and TCD, who presented ‘2060-2010: A Speculative Retrospective from Energy Needs Ireland.’

They looked at the likely scenario in 50 years time and worked back to the present, exploring possible developments in Irish energy over the period.

By John Kennedy

Photo: Nuclear enegery is a potentially cost-effective, low-carbon source of base-load electricity for Ireland, said Dr Tom O’Flaherty, former chief executive of the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland and leading expert on nuclear energy.

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com