Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Eamon Ryan has called for an urgent public debate in Ireland on nuclear energy, coinciding with the announcement today by the UK government of plans for new generation of nuclear power stations, ending years of uncertainty over its energy strategy.
The UK wants to see at least one nuclear power plant built before 2020 to help prevent an energy shortfall as older reactors are shut down.
``A clear timetable for action to enable the building of the first new nuclear power station'' has been set out today, UK Business Secretary John Hutton said in Parliament.
Ireland has no nuclear facilities and a plan to build a nuclear power plant in the 1970's was abandoned following public protests. However, the Irish power grid is linked to the UK's. So, the objectors to nuclear power may well be beneficiaries of it.
Ryan said he favoured having the debate at the Climate Change and Energy Security Oireachtas committee.
"Let's have the debate on the record and in public so that the real science and the energy policy issues can be debated in detail," he said.
France is a leader in nuclear power generation and Finland is currently building a plant. In the United States, companies have begun filing licence applications.
Nuclear operators say they could have new UK plants running by 2017, helping the UK to meet its 2020 goals for combating climate change.
Ryan's announcement illustrates the paralysis at the heart of Irish politics with courage being the rarest commodity.
The usual route to decision making is years of debates and consultant reports.
IBEC, the business lobby group welcomed the announcement. IBEC says it has long believed that this is the appropriate forum to undertake an evidence-based examination on Ireland’s future fuel mix.
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