Nuclear energy in the Republic of Ireland

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Neither the Republic of Ireland, nor the island of Ireland as a whole has any nuclear power stations but since 2012 it has an electric grid interconnected with the island of Britain and therefore it is partly powered by overseas nuclear fission stations.[1][2] While the production of electricity for the Irish national grid, by nuclear fission, is legally prohibited by Ireland under Electricity Regulation Act, 1999 (Section 18).[3] The enforcement of this prohibition is naturally only possible within the borders of Ireland.

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.[4]

Revived interest[edit]

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]

Nuclear electricity enters Ireland[edit]

Upon the completion of the 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 nuclear power station and electric power in Britain as a whole, with nuclear fission producing about 20% of Britain's total electric generation capacity.[6][7]

To reduce greenhouse gas emissions[edit]

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 by about 2020-30[clarification needed] and until then it will remain as Ireland's primary emitter of greenhouse gases.[8] 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 may compete with a biomass burning facility to succeed Moneypoint.[9][5]

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.[10]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

References[edit]