Irish people to have a say in UK’s plans to build new nuclear reactor

The prospect of any accident at a planned nuclear power plant in Britain has raised concerns among Irish people who before this week were denied the right to be consulted.

The Irish government has launched a public consultation this week to hear from its citizens on the ongoing development of the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station, on the west coast of England.

The €23 billion project is set to be located just 242km from Ireland, raising concerns among NGOs and academics over the consequences for the Island in the event of a failure at the facility.

The Economic and Social Research Institute recently estimated that the cost of a nuclear accident in northwest Europe to human life and well-being are incalculable, and would leave Ireland with a bill of over €160 billion.

Irish NGOs An Taisce, Friends of the Irish Environment and the Environmental Pillar said that the impact of any accident, including minor leakages, would be devastating for Ireland’s marine life and agriculture.

The NGOs also raised concerns over the lack of solutions to deal with nuclear waste from UK facilities, as well as serious deficits in the UK’s climate modelling for transboundary impacts in the event of an accident.

Brexit might complicate things even further, with the NGOs concerned that UK would not be held accountable by the European Court of Justice when it leaves the EU.

Environmental Pillar spokesperson and An Taisce Communication Officer, Charles Stanley Smith, said:

Our promotion of this consultation isn’t about panicking the public, but to ensure that the interests of the Irish public, their health, our environment, our economy, and, in particular our Agri-Food sector, are protected and that both the UK and Irish Government don’t ignore these issues.”

The consultation is unlikely to influence the ongoing development of the world’s most expensive power plant, according to the Irish Independent. But it might increase pressure on UK policy makers who are currently considering the development of more reactors along the west coast of Britain.

The NGOs welcomed the launch of the consultation, but stressed that the Irish government should have given citizens this opportunity five years ago as required under UN conventions for neighbouring countries that could be affected by similar projects.

“Until now, our Government has ignored its clear obligation under international conventions and European Directives to assist and enable the Irish people to have their say on this project,” the three groups said in a statement.

NGOs have been embroiled in a legal battle with the Irish government for the past five years.

An Taisce challenged the granting of permission for Hinkley Point and the lack of consultation in Ireland to the UK Supreme Court.

In the absence of State action, Friends of the Irish Environment complained to the Implementation Committee of the Espoo Convention, which requires governments to notify and consult each other on projects that might have an adverse environmental impact across boundaries.

The Committee then wrote to the Irish Government at the end of 2017 to invite them to uphold the right of the Irish public to be consulted.

But throughout this time, while Ireland failed to take action, countries such as Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands had already opened public consultations, Irish NGOs said.