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Day is nigh to embrace an energetic blast from the past
[January 26, 2006]

Day is nigh to embrace an energetic blast from the past

(The Irish Times Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)Newton's Optic: With oil and gas supplies under increasing political pressure, is it time for Ireland to reconsider the nuclear option, asks Newton Emerson

Since plans for the Sore Point nuclear power station were abandoned in 1979, energy consumption in the Republic has jumped from 40-kilo bar heaters to 160-megawatt patio heaters.

At the same time the inflation-adjusted price of a barrel of oil has almost halved - but only after lots of little changes up and down that make everyone very nervous. This is why growing numbers of people are now asking if a nuclear power station might make them slightly less nervous.

The idea received a boost this week when Minister for the Environment Dick Roche revealed that flying to and from Luxembourg, while failing to close down Sellafield had injected 400 million tonnes of carbon dioxide directly into the stratosphere. The Catholic Church also says it will back a nuclear installation, as long as it is a fast breeder, although some priests may still hold a critical Mass.

Nuclear energy works by generating more heat than light from a huge negative reaction. This boils over then lets off steam through the columns of a Sunday Turbine.

"The main attraction of building such a plant is that it would infuriate the sort of people who oppose it," explained Pat Answer, professor of atomic kittens at Dublin Security Vetting College. "The other attraction is that it would end our dependence on oil from the Middle East and gas from Russia by making us dependent on uranium ore from Kazakhstan instead."

Despite the obvious need for a clean and reliable energy source based on strip-mining central Asia, there is still considerable public disquiet over nuclear power in Ireland.

After the subject was raised on last night's RTE Radio Active, the station was bombarded with callers and neutrons.

The Green Party opposes the idea, believing that Ireland's future lies with alternative energy. Alternative energy works by telling Trevor Sargent that his climate change predictions mean Irish coastal waters will freeze and arctic high-pressure systems will sit over the country for months on end, rendering wind, wave and tidal power completely useless. This causes Mr Sargent's head to spin, generating electricity from magnets attached to his ears.

Despite the fears of environmentalists, nuclear technology has progressed a great deal since last month when everyone in Ireland still saw it as just another way to bash the Brits.

A modern French-built pressurised water reactor could supply 50 patio heaters in each hectare of Kazakhstan for a fraction of the cost of going inside and getting a jumper.

However, serious political obstacles still have to be overcome before Ireland can join the nuclear club.

If Sinn Fein enters a future coalition government, the IRA would have access to weapons-grade plutonium. If Sinn Fein held the post of energy minister, retired reactors would never be properly decommissioned. However if Sinn Fein held the post of environment minister, Ireland could bury all its nuclear waste in a field outside Monaghan and nobody would mention it again.

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