Congress Calls for Open Debate on Nuclear Power

22 Mar 2007

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions today (March 22) called for a full and open debate on nuclear power, in the context of Ireland's future energy needs.

Speaking at the launch of a Congress briefing paper on energy - Towards a Sustainable Energy Future for Ireland -General Secretary David Begg said Ireland had to face hard facts on energy.

"Over the next 20 years our population is forecast to grow to 5.5m. That has huge implications for energy supply. In that context we should not foreclose, or rule out one serious possible option, namely, nuclear power, especially given our high dependency on fossil fuels.

"We need a grown up national debate on this issue. Either we discover wholly new sources of energy, dramatically change our lifestyles and how we manage the economy, or we consider nuclear. We cannot sleepwalk into the future."

Mr Begg also criticised the absence of 'joined-up thinking' in current policy, with regard to housing, transport and economic development.

He also questioned the wisdom of breaking up the ESB, describing it at the "triumph of ideology over common sense" and saying it would very likely make energy more expensive for consumers.

Jerry Shanahan, chair of the Congress Energy Committee and National Officer with Amicus, pointed out that with the publication of the energy White Paper, the government has reneged on key commitments on energy policy.

Mr Shanahan said the public are being misled as to official energy policy and said high energy prices were "damaging competitiveness in order to satisfy the needs of artificial competition."

He described the White Paper as "tarnished" and said it represented a "thinly-veiled attack on the role and status of the ESB.

"In addition, it offers no practical means to ensure that government manage down the high cost of energy (Electricity) to the consumer. Indeed, it implies that the consumer will pay for the high price of 'unreal' competition in this sector for the foreseeable future."

Mr Shanahan proposed the creation of a National Energy Agency, which would be "responsible for development and implementation of an integrated, pragmatic and achievable energy policy across all relevant government departments including Communications, Marine and Natural Resources; Transport; Environment; and Agriculture.

"This Agency would also undertake real Research and Development into renewable energy sources, not the half hearted efforts we have seen to date."

The Congress paper also proposes the re-introduction of a Royalty Tax of 12.5 percent, on oil and gas discoveries, which would be ringfenced to fund research on renewables.