Nuclear energy in Ireland

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The Single Electricity Market encompassing the entire island of Ireland does not, and has never, produced any electricity from nuclear power stations. The production of electricity for the Irish national grid (Eirgrid), by nuclear fission, is prohibited in the Republic of Ireland by the Electricity Regulation Act, 1999 (Section 18).[1] The enforcement of this law is only possible within the borders of Ireland, and it does not prohibit consumption. Since 2001 in Northern Ireland and 2012 in the Republic, the grid has become increasingly interconnected with the neighbouring electric grid of Britain, and therefore Ireland is now partly powered by overseas nuclear fission stations.[2][3]

A ‘Eurobarometer’ survey in 2007 indicated that 27 percent of the citizens of Ireland were in favour of an “increased use” of nuclear energy.[4]

As of 2014, a Generation IV nuclear station was envisaged in competition with a biomass burning facility to succeed Ireland's single largest source of greenhouse gases, the coal burning Moneypoint power station, when it retires, c. 2025.[5][6]

In 2015 a National Energy Forum was founded to decide upon generation mixes to be deployed in the Republic of Ireland,[7] out to 2030. This forum has yet to be convened (Oct 2016).

Electricity security[edit]

In 2014 Ireland presently sources about 70% of its electricity from fossil gas.[8] The primary source ("95%") of this gas to Ireland is via the moffat-Isle of man-Gormanstown/"Dublin" connection and to a lesser extent, the Scotland-Northern Ireland pipeline (SNIP),[8][9][10][11] both of these pipes are, in of themselves, connected to the wider British pipe-network and the European continent Dutch-British network. This great network of pipes is supplied with North Sea Gas and as that source is drying up,[12] a greater dependence is expected on the frequently disrupted European gas network for which Russia being a primary provider.[13][14]

Carnsore Point[edit]

A nuclear power plant was proposed in 1968, and resulted in the creation of the Nuclear Energy Board. It was to be built during the 1970s at Carnsore Point in County Wexford by the Electricity Supply Board. The plan envisioned four reactors to be built at the site, but was dropped in 1981 after strong opposition from anti-nuclear lobby groups throughout the 1970s, particularly in 1978 with concerts and rallies being held at Carnsore Point attended by popular musician Christy Moore. The intended generating capacity of the planned station was therefore required to be sourced from other energy sources, and such, the construction of the coal burning Moneypoint power station began in 1979.[15]

Fission electricity enters Ireland[edit]

Following the completion of the HVDC Moyle cable in 2001, connecting Northern Ireland and Scotland, and the larger capacity 500 MW East-West Interconnector in 2012, a submarine cable that connects County Dublin with Wales, Ireland has been supported with electricity from the generation of the Welsh Wylfa fission-electric power station and fission electricity in Britain as a whole. The Wylfa power stations is however shuttered,[16] the last reactor shut down in 2015. Ireland was a net exporter of electricity in 2016 and 2017.[17]

Revived interest[edit]

Forfás in 2006, the 120-member Irish Academy of Engineering in 2011[18] and more recently, the National Energy Forum in 2015, have suggested that a Generation IV reactor should be considered for analysis in Ireland's energy future.

In April 2006, a government-commissioned report by Forfás pointed to the need for Ireland to reconsider nuclear power in order "to secure its long-run energy security". A relatively small-scale, Generation IV nuclear station was envisaged. In 2007, Ireland's Electricity Supply Board made it known that it would consider a joint venture with a major European Union energy company to build nuclear capacity.[5]

A 2012 International Energy Agency (IEA) report said that Ireland is highly dependent on imported oil and natural/fossil gas. While the push to develop renewable energies is commendable, it will result in an increased reliance on fossil gas, as gas-fired power plants will be required to provide flexibility in electricity supply when wind power is unavailable. About 60% of Ireland's electricity already comes from gas-fired generation, which adds to energy security concerns, particularly as 93% of its gas supplies come from a single transit point in Scotland.[5]

In 2013, the Environmental Protection Agency in Ireland warned that Ireland is not on track to meet its 2020 pollution reductions of greenhouse gases.[5]

As there is a need to replace the coal burning 900 MW Moneypoint power station, situated in the South West of Ireland, a station which will approach its design life in 2025 [19] and until then it will remain as Ireland's primary emitter of greenhouse gases.[20] A dependable baseload power source with a high capacity factor will be required to keep the grid stable in its absence, a role that is now being filled by Moneypoint station, this role will thus need to be filled by a low carbon power station to mitigate climate change.

As of 2014, a Generation IV nuclear station was envisaged in competition with a biomass burning facility to succeed Moneypoint.[5][6]

In 2015 a National Energy Forum was envisaged to decide on generation mixes to be deployed in Ireland [7] out to 2030, as of July 2016 this forum has not been convened.

Celtic interconnector[edit]

In 2016 proposals for a $1 billion Irish-French subsea cable, with a capacity for 700 MW, close to the 900 MW output of Moneypoint, were discussed between both countries. With over 70% of French electricity generated from its fleet of fission-electric reactors, if connected, Ireland would further receive electricity from overseas nuclear energy suppliers, with the commencement of construction suggested for 2021, the Celtic Interconnector is expected to be completed by 2025. It would then become Ireland's only connection to an EU member state, following the withdrawal of the UK, in Brexit.[21]

Nuclear fusion[edit]

As with the other members of the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom), Ireland funds nuclear fusion energy research, including the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, now known simply as the ITER project, with the Irish contribution being managed by the National Centre for Plasma Science & Technology at Dublin City University.[22]

Donegal uranium prospecting[edit]

Diagram of solution mining or in-situ leaching for uranium ore (ISL), approximately half of all uranium ore is mined in this way as of 2016.[23] frequently uranium mining is not economical on its own and ISL is primarily conducted on copper ore bodies which bring up uranium ore as a co-product.

In 2007, the Green party which were the political architects behind the 1999 prohibition in the Republic of Ireland of the generation of fission-electricity, further prohibited the granting of exploration contracts to 2 unnamed mineral prospecting companies, which were requesting to explore the west of county Donegal.[24] The then energy minister, the Green party's Eamon Ryan, signaled he was denying the exploration licenses as he is "against" nuclear energy.[25] Ryan has also stated that "It would be hypocritical to permit the extraction of uranium for use in nuclear reactors in other countries, while the nuclear generation of electricity is not allowed in Ireland".[26] The suggested mining method of In-situ liquid extraction of underground uranium, was deemed the most likely had the prospecting developed into a mining license.[27]

Ireland is a member state signatory to the Nuclear Exporters Committee, which requires indigenous exploration and processing companies conduct all uranium-ore extraction and handling. The international committee monitors the exporting of process knowledge and techniques and therefore requires each member state to indigenously develop the processing techniques and manufacture all the equipment that relate to natural uranium ore, within its own borders.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Electricity Regulation Act, 1999 (Section 18)".
  2. ^ "That nukes that argument". 7 June 2013.
  3. ^ page 50
  4. ^ "Ireland Rejects Uranium Prospecting Applications".
  5. ^ a b c d e "Emerging Nuclear Energy Countries". World Nuclear Association. April 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-22.
  6. ^ a b page 50 to 60
  7. ^ a b "Ireland's Transition to a Low Carbon Energy Future 2015-2030" (PDF). Retrieved 30 July 2016.
  8. ^ a b "Risk: Security of energy supplies in Ireland" (PDF). 3 September 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-09-03.
  9. ^ "Map of gas pipelines in Britain and Ireland". 4 April 2015. Archived from the original on 2015-04-04.
  10. ^ "Islandmagee Storage - Project Description".
  11. ^ "Transmission of Natural Gas through a Second Pipeline between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Ireland and through a Connection to the Isle of Man" (PDF). 3 September 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-09-03.
  12. ^ "Oil and Gas in the North Sea Franziska Krause TU Bergakademie Freiberg" (PDF).
  13. ^ "The mythical pipeline from Russia". 10 May 2011.
  14. ^ "A Review of Irish Energy Policy" (PDF). The Economic and Social Research Institute. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-09-24. Retrieved 2015-09-03.
  15. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-03-17. Retrieved 2014-08-27.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  16. ^ IAEA PRIS
  17. ^ Energy in Ireland 2018 Report, Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI)
  18. ^ Energy Policy and Economic Recovery 2010-2015 Archived 14 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine, page 5. Irish Academy of Engineering, 2011. Archive
  19. ^ "Ireland's Transition to a Low Carbon Energy Future 2015-2030 ( Page 38)" (PDF). Retrieved 30 July 2016.
  20. ^ "New-tech solution 'could clean up' Moneypoint -". Retrieved 2018-05-21.
  21. ^
  22. ^ "Fusion - DCU".
  23. ^ "In Situ Leach Mining (ISL) of Uranium". World Nuclear Association.
  24. ^ Archive map of areas requested for exploration
  25. ^ "Ryan signals prohibition of uranium exploration and mining". 3 December 2007.
  26. ^ "Ryan refuses two uranium mining licences". 2 December 2007.
  27. ^ "The Activist's Guide to Uranium Mining".

External links[edit]