Newry nuclear dump a possibility: Renewables are the best option

Sellafield nuclear power plant

Irrespective of what kind of a border Brexit fathers, be it a Donald Trump stop-’em-all wall or an arrangement satisfied by one of John McGahern’s patrols of the imagination, the report that the borderland town of Newry is one of 45 sites being considered as a place to dispose of the United Kingdom’s nuclear waste will stir a predictable response.

That response is unlikely to be celebratory, but may, like so many other public positions today, be built on emotion. 

Anti-nuclear activists will insist this island remain free of the nuclear industry and will do so with the enduring conviction that has, since the Carnsore protest of over 40 years ago, characterised this debate. 

They will point out — accurately — that a nuclear accident would not recognise manmade borders.

However, these protests must be seen in the context that we still, according to the Sustainable Energy Authority, import 66% of our energy needs. 

It was 88% in 2015, a reduction driven by a growth in renewables. 

Nonetheless, a proportion of our imported electricity is generated at Britain’s nuclear stations, so, like some Brexiteers, we may want to have our cake and to eat it, too. 

Our ability to oppose even the idea of a nuclear dump 110km from Dublin seems compromised by this dependency on imports.

The best response to the prospect of a Newry nuclear dump, no matter how remote, would be to intensify our efforts to move to renewable sources, especially offshore wind.

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