05 January 2006

Nuclear power plant on the border? Say it ain’t so

Daily Ireland

Green campaigners write to Peter Hain for definitive answer -British government still to confirm it has no plans to build a nuclear power plant in the Border regions of Down or Newry and Mourne district council areas

Ciarán Barnes

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The British government has been asked to give a definitive answer on whether it intends building a nuclear power plant in the North.
Green campaigners have written to secretary of state Peter Hain demanding to know if any sites in the North are being considered for new plants.
There are fears that the British government is looking at developing a nuclear plant in either the Down or Newry and Mourne district council areas.
Concern increased after British prime minister Tony Blair’s recent admission that a new energy review would “include specifically the issue of whether to facilitate the development of a new generation of nuclear power stations”.
Down SDLP councillor Margaret Ritchie, who is a member of the all-Ireland Nuclear-Free Local Authorities forum, said renewable energy and not nuclear power could meet the North’s energy needs.
“There is absolutely no good reason why this should change just because Tony Blair has been seduced by the nuclear lobby into calling yet another energy review,” she said.
Louth Fine Gael councillor Michael O’Dowd, the local authorities forum chairman, urged others to oppose the building of a nuclear power plant in Ireland.
“Civil society must make its voice heard now to oppose construction of a nuclear facility anywhere on our island, and we will be calling on local councils in all parts of Ireland to make their views known.
“Northern Ireland is well positioned to generate a large proportion of its energy from renewable sources, particularly wind power, and there is also scope for energy-saving programmes to have a big impact.
“Mr Hain must tell Tony Blair that there is no need or desire for any nuclear power station to be built in Northern Ireland,” Mr O’Dowd said.
The ramifications of developing a nuclear site in the North are huge.
Nuclear plants rely on the mining of uranium, a process that is extremely damaging to health and the environment. No safe solution exists for the disposal of waste, which remains active for at least one million years.
Patricia McKenna, a former Green Party MEP for Dublin, said nuclear power plants were really military projects.
She said the use of nuclear power had never been peaceful and was clearly linked to nuclear arms.
“The generation of electricity in nuclear reactors produces nuclear substances that can be used for making nuclear weapons,” she wrote in Tuesday’s Daily Ireland.
“The dangers associated with the handling of weapons-usable nuclear substances require a high level of security and secrecy in even so-called democratic countries.
“Given Blair’s concern about international terrorism, one would expect him to take a precautionary approach to the nuclear industry.”
With England’s main nuclear power plant at Sellafield less than 100 miles (160 kilometres) away from Ireland’s coast, anti-nuclear campaigners are waiting with bated breath for Mr Hain’s response.
The nuclear-free forum expects to receive a reply from the secretary of state within the next three weeks on whether sites in the North are being considered for nuclear power plants.
Fallout from the Chernobyl reactor disaster spread across Europe, affecting millions.

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