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Expert calls on government to consider nuclear power

A professor of applied physics has championed the case of Ireland turning towards nuclear energy, saying that it offers a cheap and clean source of fuel.

Workers cycle past a power plant on a tricycle cart in Changchun, in northeast China's Jilin province.
Workers cycle past a power plant on a tricycle cart in Changchun, in northeast China's Jilin province.
Image: Press Association Images

THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD consider legalising nuclear power, a NUI Galway emeritus professor of applied physics has said.

Professor Philip Walton said that Ireland’s dependence on fossil fuels was unsustainable and that nuclear power would offer a solution to the country’s energy needs. Walton’s speech was one of series being held by the Better Environment with Nuclear Energy (BENE) group across the country with a view to presenting the virtues of nuclear power to the public.

Walton said that Ireland is 90 per cent dependent on imported fossil fuels, reports the Irish Times, and that such forms of fuel were expensive, messy and contributing to global warming.  He said that, if Ireland were to build a nuclear power station, the public wouldn’t need to fear of a disaster similar to that which befell Chernobyl. He added that the effects of the accident had been “greatly exaggerated”.

However, Chernobyl Children International cites a 200 per cent increase in breast cancer and birth defects; a 100 per cent in crease in leukemia; a 250 per cent increase in congenital birth deformities; and a 2,400 per cent  increase in the incidences of thyroid cancer, as well as a host of other medical disorders and environmental problems, as a result of the accident. The disaster at Chernobyl resulted in 400 times more radioactivity being unleashed on the Ukrainian town that the Hiroshima atomic bomb produced, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Walton also said that it was a “myth” that there was no clear way of disposing of nuclear waste. This “myth” is explained on the BENE website as follows:

“Low-level waste has been allowed to decay naturally to background levels, and then buried in carefully selected shallow land disposal sites. Intermediate level waste has been concentrated, contained and stored. Much of it has been disposed of by burying in carefully selected land sites, and some in deep-sea sites.

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No nation has yet completed a long term storage facility for high level waste, although a facility is under construction in Finland, mainly because waste: storage is not a pressing issue, the quantities are small, and most of what is considered waste today could be used as fuel tomorrow.”

Medical and industrial radioactive waste can take anything between hours to years to break down – however, it can take thousands of years for high-level radioactive waste to become safe.

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