Nuclear Power? Still no thanks!

At our January 2012 meeting a lively discussion was held on the subject of nuclear energy. James Lovelock, author of the Gaia Hypothesis suggested that nuclear power could be used as a sort of “methadone” replacement therapy to deal with our addiction to fossil fuels, in order to reduce the problems associated with their continued use.

The issue was raised by greens in other countries after last years Japanese earthquakes. The group felt that it was appropriate to have a debate.

The view was put forward that, because of the cost associated with building nuclear power stations, it was not an option for an island such as Ireland. It is necessary to have a number of reactors in any system as it takes a long period of time to power down and recharge each reactor. A strong transmission network for large amounts of electricity is also needed. Nuclear power systems can be very centralised, and many at the meeting felt they would prefer a system where the power was more decentralised. The scale of nuclear power is currently very large.

Fusion nuclear energy was mentioned as a possible alternative to fission, which might result in less of a waste problem. However, it was felt that the promises regarding this form of nuclear energy were a long time coming to fruition, and that it might be some time yet. The scale of such reactors was also seen to be too big and too centralised for Ireland.

The health implications of nuclear power were mentioned. It was stated that it can be statistically difficult to prove that any health issues (e.g. cancers such as leukaemia) are caused by nuclear energy or radiation due to confounding variables (so many other things can cause the same diseases that radiation is associated with), although graphs from national cancer statistics do show concentric circles of increasing incidence of cancer, highest in Dundalk which is the closest place in Ireland to the Sellafield Nuclear plant in England. (Not scientifically accepted)

The moral issue of using electricity, generated by nuclear power, which has been imported from the UK was mentioned.

Other problems identified with nuclear power were the C02 generated in the construction of power plants, and the risks from terrorism to such a large centralised facility as would be needed. Dealing with the waste is an issue as it takes a very long time for radioactive isotopes to break down,

Another issue was the overall issue of energy. In terms of energy, Ireland could concentrate on wind and wave energy. It was noted that the issue of energy seemed to be receiving less prominence as Eamon Ryan is no longer the minister.

There was a feeling in the room that we we should be starting to live a “powered down” post-carbon lifestyle. This debate needs to be made more prominent by the Green Party. The current recession should be an opportunity to go cold turkey on nuclear power.

A self sufficient community, called “M Power” in Baltinglass, Co. Wicklow was mentioned, as Wind turbines owned by the community were being installed as part of the “Smart Green Towns” initiative (see http://www.res.ie/) and covered on RTEs “Eco Eye” (see http://www.rte.ie/tv/programmes/eco_eye.html) . These allowed the community to become net distributors of energy. It was discussed that farmers felt that they were not getting enough for electricity which was being sold to the national grid. The possibility of local communities doing their own water harvesting was also mentioned, which would save on water charges in the future. The meeting felt that a general “Power Down” approach, where local communities produced their own energy, grew their own food and became self sufficient was the way forward.

The Dublin Community forums are pursuing a “Green Hand Charter” (see links here http://dublincommunitygrowers.ie/global-ideas/land-use-advocacy/) approach to fallow land in the city. There seems to be some disconnect with the City council on this, although the new Community Garden in Weaver’s Square, Dublin 8, was almost developed on these principles, with the landowner taking back ownership for one 24 hour period per year.

The Blarney Park allotments/Community Garden were discussed. It was noted that frequently a small number of individuals take over these groups, and then another group of people tend to oppose change, sometimes on a “NIMBY” (Not In My Back Yard) basis. When community consultation has taken place. Examples cited were the opposition to the crèche on Windmill Road. Part of the problem was that community groups are not necessarily representative, and there are no local plebiscites, which means that there is no real local democracy in action in Dublin.

About Oisín

Representative for the Green Party/ Comhaontas Glas in South West Inner City
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