The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) welcomed an address by new Climate Action, Environment, Communications and Transport Minister Eamon Ryan, who was the keynote speaker at the NFLA All Ireland Sustainable Energy Forum autumn webinar held on the 25th September. At the meeting Eamon Ryan outlined the Government’s low carbon ambitions for the next decade as well as answering questions on cross-border cooperation on energy and climate change matters. (1)
The NFLA All Ireland Sustainable Energy Forum is a fairly unique body of councils from across the island of Ireland that advocates best practice in the local authority role to deliver low carbon energy policies; as well as highlighting key nuclear risks that may impact on the island from across the Irish Sea.
Minister Ryan outlined the new coalition government’s Climate Bill which he hoped would be passed before Christmas. The Bill will seek to enshrine into law a commitment to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by an average 7% per year, adding up to 51% by 2030. An additional target to reach net zero emissions by 2050 is also within the Bill, as well as to deliver a “green” economic recovery to the Covid-19 crisis – around 37% of future Covid-19 related funding will be spent on tackling climate change and delivering a ‘green recovery’.
Minister Ryan noted that local authorities would play an important role in plans for a widespread retrofitting of homes and public buildings, as well as in strategies that promote low carbon forms of transport. A National Land Use strategy to protect biodiversity will also need strong support from Irish Councils.
The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) will be the core partner for local authorities to develop local Energy Community schemes in the likes of solar and onshore wind, coupled with offshore wind which will drive Ireland’s low carbon energy needs. Minister Ryan commented that he wishes to see the North-South energy interconnector delivered and post-Brexit, there still needs to be cooperation across the island to deliver an integrated single electricity market. Minister Ryan has been in discussion with his compatriot Minister Edward Poots and would like to see an All Ireland Land Use Plan to promote sharing environmental management across the island.
The webinar also included a detailed overview from the energy and climate change managers of Derry and Strabane Council, who are one of the first to develop detailed climate change adaptation plans as part of their climate emergency work. NFLA have been in touch with Sustainable NI about such work and hope to cooperate with them in the future.
The webinar also considered core nuclear issues that impact on Ireland. Independent marine environmental consultant Tim Deere-Jones outlined the core concerns that came out of an official investigation into in alarming ‘near miss’ incident between a UK Royal Navy submarine and the Stena Superfast passenger ferry between Belfast and Cairnyan. The report showed that the submarine came within just a few hundred yards of colliding with this large ferry. Councillors at the webinar agreed it was important to ask further questions on this matter in the Westminster Parliament, the Stormont Assembly and the Dail, as well as to follow up recommendations of the NFLA with the Royal Navy, the Marine Accident investigations Bureau and the International Maritime Organisation. (2)
The NFLA Secretary Sean Morris concluded the webinar by focusing on concerns of a UK radioactive waste underground repository possibly being constructed partially under the Irish Sea, recent issues at Sellafield and the Irish transboundary consultation seeking comments on the proposals to develop a new nuclear reactor at Sizewell in Suffolk. The NFLA have provided resolutions that have been placed at Regional Assemblies and are developing a model briefing for Irish Councils to respond to. (3)
NFLA All Ireland Forum Co Chair, Councillor David Healy said:
“The Forum’s engaging webinar has galvanised the NFLA to remain fully involved in promoting best practice in developing local sustainable energy low carbon plans to tackle the climate emergency. It was encouraging to hear from the Climate Action Minister Eamon Ryan and we encourage all Councils across the island to put climate action low carbon plans at the heart of their policy agenda. NFLA will also continue to raise nuclear hazard issues that could have an impact on the island of Ireland. It was alarming to hear of a near miss between a nuclear powered submarined and one of the main cross-channel Irish Sea ferries and we will be raising further questions on this with our elected representatives in Westminster, Stormont and the Dail.”
NFLA All Ireland Forum Co Chair, Councillor Karen McKevitt added:
“All Councils in Northern Ireland have to ramp up their climate action work and it was very useful to hear from Derry and Strabane officers on their wide activity in this area. There are some useful learning points in their presentation for my own council of Newry, Mourne and Down. I am also really concerned about nuclear submarines coming in close proximity with both fishing vessels and in this case a large passenger ferry. We will be contacting our local MPs, Assembly Members and Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick to ask detailed questions to try and ensure such dangerous incidents do not happen again.”
Ends – for more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 00 44 (0)161 234 3244.
Notes for Editors:
(1) The presentations from the webinar are on the NFLA shortly (Minister Ryan’s video clip will go on shortly)–
(2) NFLA Policy Briefing 203 on the ‘near miss’ incident between a nuclear submarine and an Irish Sea passenger ferry –
(3) NFLA model resolution for Regional Assemblies on the Sizewell C transboundary consultation –
Transboundary Environmental Public Consultation – Planning Application for proposed Nuclear Power Station at Sizewell C, Suffolk, England, UK
This Assembly calls upon the Government’s Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government and the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment to object in the strongest possible terms to the proposed construction of two EPR-type nuclear reactors at Sizewell in Suffolk in the UK on the grounds that a severe accident, however remote the possibility, could have a devastating impact on the island of Ireland, and such a possibility has not been properly considered.
This Assembly also calls on the Government to seek a full Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to be conducted by the UK Government under national regulations informed by EU law. This includes a full invocation of Ireland’s call to be fully consulted and for Irish public input to be included in the EIA and Appropriate Assessment. This Assembly calls in addition for an EIA to be undertaken as part of the UNECE Espoo Convention, ensuring that transboundary impacts cannot be excluded.
A severe accident scenario, such as the one suggested by the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland, (1) would involve a loss of coolant with a release of fission products to the environment. This Assembly notes that impacts from the Chernobyl severe accident impacted on Ireland, and it notes an ESRI report that has indicated that, even in a severe accident scenario of no radioactive fallout hitting Ireland, the discounted economic losses were €4 billion, due to reputational impacts to tourism & agriculture. (2)
Nuclear engineer, the late John Large, expanded on this type of scenario pointing out that the fuel core would completely melt after about 16 hours. This could cause an explosion and a scenario very similar to the events at Fukushima. (3) Although EDF Energy´s Environmental Statement for a similar plant to Sizewell C being built at Hinkley Point C (HPC) says the likely impacts of an accident do not extend beyond the county of Somerset and the Severn Estuary, a report for the Austrian Environment Agency says severe accidents at HPC with considerable releases of radioactive caesium-137 cannot be ruled out, although their probability may be low. There is no convincing rationale why such accidents should not be addressed in the Environmental Statement (ES); quite to the contrary, it would appear rather evident that they should be included in the assessment since their effects can be widespread and long-lasting. (4)
This Assembly also calls on cooperation with the All Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) Sustainable Energy Forum, potentially in collaboration with the Irish Environment Network, to developing a detailed report on this matter with facilitation of a local workshop webinar on this matter, should the Assembly wish it.
(1) Proposed nuclear power plants in the UK – potential radiological implications for Ireland, RPII, May 2013 http://www.epa.ie/pubs/reports/radiation/RPII_Proposed_Nuc_Power_Plants_UK_13.pdf
(2) The Potential Impact of a Nuclear Impact – An Irish Case Study, ESRI, December 2012
(3) John Large Witness Statement in THE QUEEN (on the application of AN TAISCE) Claimant -and-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR ENERGY AND CLIMATE CHANGE Defendant -and-NNB GENERATION COMPANY LIMITED, 12th Nov 2013, http://largeassociates.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/R3122-B-12-11-13.pdf
(4) Becker, O, Hinkley Point C: Expert Statement to the EIA. Austrian Environment Agency, 2013 http://www.umweltbundesamt.at/fileadmin/site/publikationen/REP0413.pdf