Ireland is “long overdue a discussion” about a shift towards nuclear power, according to an Irish Nuclear Energy Engineer.
It comes after the latest UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report warned that billions of people and thousands of species are at severe risk from climate change.
The report warned that ‘half measures are no longer an option’ – with humanity set to “miss a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future”.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Nuclear Engineer Norma O’Mahony said the climate crisis and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine highlight the need for a shift towards nuclear energy in Ireland.
“I think we are actually overdue this discussion,” she said. “It certainly is an option we should be considering at this time.
“We have seen over the past couple of days, unfortunately, that a lot of our EU neighbours have been caught unawares by this issue of energy security.
“Germany in particular had a fairly advanced and very widespread nuclear programme that they wound down and found themselves in a position where they were incredible dependant on Russian gas – so it is definitely time to start having this conversation again.”
Ms O’Mahony said nuclear disasters like Chernobyl and Fukushima are “incredibly rare” and involve “extremely extenuating circumstances”.
“Chernobyl, for a western, modern reactor design is just not a credible scenario,” she said.
“It seemed incredible at the time, but it was a soviet design. At the time, if you talked to experts in the UK or the US, they would have said, what is this? What are you doing?
“Fukushima was just a confluence of a range of incredible factors that came together all at once.”
She said Ireland would not need to build a huge reactor like those you see in the UK or Continental Europe.
“The modern idea for nuclear power is that you would use something called a small modular reactor,” she said.
“This is much smaller than your typical reactor you would see in the UK and France. So, the output is much smaller but also the development costs and the land usage and the grid proportion we are talking about would be a lot less significant.
“The other advantage of these as well is that actually, they are pretty much developed in a factory so your development times are much reduced.”
She agreed that nuclear waste remains an issue – but insisted that there are plans in place across the world for dealing with it.
“A lot of countries are moving towards a policy called deep geological disposal,” she said.
“That is basically a facility that is about a mile underground where you have the correct geological conditions to store nuclear waste for many thousands of years without it being an issue for anyone involved.
“The other thing is that what people think of as harmful nuclear waste – there is actually very little of that generated.
“So, it is not as harmful as people think it is but it is an issue and there are plans in place to deal with it.”
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Main image shows Trawsfynydd Nuclear Power Station in Wales, which is in the process of being decommissioned. Image: Rory Trappe / Alamy Stock Photo