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Ireland Protests New British Nuclear Plant

To say that British-Irish relations over the past few centuries have been strained would be an understatement.

Now Ireland’s An Taisce, the National Trust for Ireland, is pursuing a High Court challenge in London over a planned nuclear power plant, to be built at Hinkley Point in Somerset, 150 miles from the Irish coast. An Taisce instituted the lawsuit after British authorities did not consult Ireland about the proposed nuclear plant before it granted consent for its construction.

An Taisce spokesman James Nix noted that the Hinkley Point NPP is as close to the Irish coast as it is to London and told reporters, "This case is not about interfering with the right of the UK authorities to make their own decisions, nor about being pro or anti-nuclear.  It is about ensuring that the rights and interests of the Irish public and their concern for their environment are not excluded from those decisions, and that the Irish public is properly consulted in accordance with the law on a project of this nature."

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It is not the first time that Dublin and London have clashed over British nuclear issues. In 2007 the Irish government demanded that the British government close the Sellafield NPP, where in 1957 a 48-hour fire in one of the NPP’s reactors spewed large amounts of radioactive material into the atmosphere before the blaze was extinguished. Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern noted that a recent report which said the amount of material released in the fire was double the original estimate was “very disturbing,” adding that the Sellafield NPP represented an ongoing “significant threat” to the people of north-east Ireland.

Highlighting Dublin’s concerns, in 2008 Westminster's Public Accounts Committee issued a report noting that decommissioning the Sellafield NPP, Britain’s largest NPP, could take up to a century before the site was rendered completely safe. Reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel at Sellafield NPP is expected to end by 2020 but the report added that it would take years for radioactivity levels inside unused reactors to fall to safe limits prior to the buildings being demolished. In response to the report South Down SDLP MP Eddie McGrady described Sellafield’s nuclear waste as a time bomb waiting to happen, stating, “They are not only producing but importing the dirty stuff from the rest of the world, it is incredible.”

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But the Irish may have a secret ally in its opposition to Hinkley Point – the stuttering state of the British economy. EDF Energy chief executive Vincent de Rivaz has threatened to quit Britain if his company’s deal to build the $22 billion Hinkley Point NPP falls through. Analysts believe that the deal may well falter as both the British government and the French-owned company have so far failed to reach agreement on the level of subsidies the company would receive, which would be funded by levies on consumer bills.

In a clear sign that EDF Energy is preparing for the worst, last month it reduced the number of workers at Hinkley Point as it continued negotiating with the British government on the contract for electricity produced from the site. In a press release EDF Energy said it was "refocusing" activities at Hinkley Point, stating, “As part of good project management, and to control costs, EDF Energy has taken steps to refocus its activities at its Hinkley Point C project. This reflects its priorities ahead of securing the financing necessary for the project.”

By. John C.K. Daly of Oilprice.com

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  • SA Kiteman on May 13 2013 said:
    The Brits should be building Liquid Fluoride Thorium Recyclers anyway. And they'd be much cheaper and run on easily recycled radioactive wastes. Power AND waste reduction too! Neat!
  • SA Kiteman on May 15 2013 said:
    Seems LFTRs are getting serious attention in Parliament. I hold out some hope for the Brits afterall!

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