|Concerns about the UK’s nuclear expansion program and Ireland’s failures to consult with the Irish public were raised today by TDs and Senators from across the political spectrum, together with environmental NGOs, academics and the agricultural sector.
The broad grouping came together for a briefing at Buswell’s Hotel at 11AM this morning organised by the Environmental Pillar and co-convened by the Leaders of the Green Party, Labour Party and Social Democrats. 
Attendees heard that there are eight new nuclear plants proposed in the UK, five of which are to be located on the west coast of the UK facing Ireland.
The UK is also considering the development of geological underground or undersea storage for radioactive waste, including locations in Northern Ireland and under marine waters.
The clear implication here is that dumping of radioactive waste on the island of Ireland or its surrounding waters is under active consideration.
The extension of the operating lifetime of older nuclear plants is also on the table, with a number of key public consultations undertaken by the UK Government in relation to the above issues. 
However, controversially, these key consultations have not been brought to the attention of the Irish public in the Republic of Ireland despite repeated calls from environmental groups for the Irish people to have their say on such developments. 
The UK also failed in its duty in relation to another public consultation on the planned Hinkley Point C nuclear power station, located less than 250km from Rosslare.
After five years of intense legal battle, in which Irish environmental groups such as An Taisce and Friends of the Irish Environment and the Environmental Pillar fought to uphold the rights of the Irish public, a long overdue consultation began recently and is set to close on 17 April 2018. 
Similar public consultations will be increasingly important in the future to address transboundary impacts of UK projects, especially post-Brexit. 
Pandora’s Box of Problems
The proposed nuclear developments on the UK’s west coast open up a Pandora’s Box of potential problems for our island particularly in the event of an accident at any of the planned facilities.
The ESRI recently estimated that the cost of a single nuclear accident in northwest Europe to human life and well-being are incalculable, with losses estimated at over €160 billion. 
The impact of any accident would be especially devastating for Ireland’s agriculture, especially if it occurred around April.
In this scenario, animals would need to be kept inside without food or water at a time when winter fodder is exhausted, and access to uncontaminated water would be a huge issue.
There is also concern with the absence of solutions to deal with nuclear waste from UK facilities, as well as serious deficits in the UK’s climate modelling for transboundary impacts in the event of an accident. 
There is also an issue with a lack of emergency response planning and capacity in Ireland to effectively deal with any potential accidents. 
It was recently revealed the HSE warned the Government that the State has no capacity at present to deal with a nuclear accident. 
Professor John Sweeney, Emeritus Professor of Geography at the National University of Ireland, said:
“There were serious issues with the modelling done by the UK in assessing the risk of transboundary impacts from Hinkley Point C on Ireland in the event of an accident, and these issues are still valid today.
“Accidents by their very nature are accidental and catch us by surprise, exploiting unexpected consolidations of events, errors or omissions.
“Our promotion of these consultations isn’t about panicking the public, but to ensure that the interests of the Irish public, their health, our environment, our economy, and, in particular our Agri-Food sector, are protected.
“We want to ensure that both the UK and Irish Government don’t ignore these issues, and adequately consider our risks including the fact we don’t have a covered water supply.
“One of the basic principles of international relations is that good neighbours talk to each other about developments which may have serious implications for each other. The Irish Government’s lack of proactive engagement to secure consultation rights and proactively promote our interests on these issues is now a real concern.”
Attracta Uí Bhroin, Environmental Law Implementation Group Facilitator at the Irish Environmental Network, said:
“It is imperative that politicians, organisations, state agencies, and individuals engage with the consultation on Hinkley Point C to highlight their concerns, what they don’t understand or haven’t been provided information on, and what additional safety and mitigation they require.
“It is important that the Irish people should have a voice in the matter of this new nuclear power plant. Our own ESRI produced a very important report that estimated that the worst case scenario would amount to more than €160 billion in economic losses and that’s dwarfs the recent bank bailout.
“It also acknowledged agriculture would be wiped out, and our ability to recover from such an event would be severely compromised with long term contamination of land and water.
“We are also urging our Government to be more proactive in engaging and securing consultation rights on the UK’s nuclear expansion program at the earliest stages when all options are open to protect our health, as well as economic and environmental interests.
“The consultation precedent and commitment that has been now established and so hard won in relation to Hinkley Point C will apply and the Irish people will have a chance to say something about those in the future.
“But we need to ensure that our Government is also vigilant on associated nuclear infrastructure such as dumps for radioactive waste – a direct consequence of the UK’s nuclear power plants. We have serious concerns about its approach to these.”
Patrick Kent, President of the Irish Cattle & Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA), said:
“Hard questions need to be asked about our ability to deal with a nuclear incident, and our right to comment on the adequacy of the UK’s plans to dot their Western coast with nuclear stations, some of which would be within 250km of Ireland.
“A nuclear accident would devastate agriculture for many years so I think we have a right as a people to be consulted as to whether the plans that are being made for these power stations are robust enough and whether they address legitimate concerns that the Irish people might want to express.
“You only have to consider the difficulties for farmers and livestock in the recent snow storm to see how vulnerable we are and what practical problems arise when access to water is restricted. Matters become critical in 24 hours.
“However, the combined impact of Storm Ophelia and the Beast from the East would pale in comparison to what we can expect from a single nuclear accident which would be Armageddon for Irish agriculture and the fishing industry.
“Livestock, grains, fish stocks, and our soils could be devastated, forcing the farming community to leave the country for pastures new, and taking with it the central pillar of the Irish economy.”
ENDS List of Oireachtas Co-conveners and Speakers:
* Green Party Senator Grace O’Sullivan (Chair)
* Eamon Ryan, TD, Green Party Leader (Co-convener)
* Brendan Howlin, TD, Labour Party Leader (Co-convener)
* Catherine Murphy, TD, Co-leader of Social Democrats (Co-convener)
* Brian Stanley TD, Sinn Féin (Co-convener)
* Clare Daly, TD, Independents 4 Change (Co-convener)
* Attracta Uí Bhroin, Environmental Law Implementation Group, Irish Environmental Network
* Professor John Sweeney, Emeritus Professor of Geography at National University of Ireland
* Patrick Kent, President of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association
 List of UK Public Consultations:
* Consultation with Northern Irish communities on proposals for radioactive waste in geological and underground or undersea storage facilities. https://goo.gl/HCe3Tm
* Consultations with Welsh communities Wales on the same matter; https://goo.gl/Zum7X5
* Proposals for geological disposal of radioactive waste: https://goo.gl/iFa9S2
* Revisiting criteria for siting new plants to be deployed post-2025. Five of the eight locations are on the UK’s west coast facing Ireland : https://goo.gl/zEBCRc
 The Espoo Convention sets out the obligations of Parties to assess the environmental impact of certain activities at an early stage of planning. It also lays down the general obligation of States to notify and consult each other on all major projects under consideration that are likely to have a likely significant environmental impact across boundaries.
Under UN Conventions, the peoples of neighbouring countries that could be affected by a project need to be consulted. For example, the Compliance Committee in ACCC/C/2013/92 of the Aarhus Convention states: “In the case of a formal notification from another country, the Committee considers that when deciding whether to enter into a transboundary procedure under applicable international or EU regimes, a mere awareness by the Party of a strong interest by its own public in the outcome of the decision-making subject to the EIA procedure is a relevant consideration to be taken into account, even without a clear request from its public, when deciding whether to enter into the transboundary procedure in order to facilitate the participation of its public in that decision-making.” https://goo.gl/wfgjBW
 Brief history of An Taisce Court Cases:
 The UK’s exit from the EU will trigger its withdrawal from the EURATOM treaty on nuclear waste and safety. Ireland will also not be able to rely on key EU law environmental principles like the polluter pays and precautionary principals set out in the EU Treaties when the UK withdraws from them under Brexit.
 Economic and Social Research Institute. 2016. The Potential Economic Impact of a Nuclear Accident – An Irish Case Study: https://www.esri.ie/pubs/BKMNEXT313.pdf
 Leading Irish climate expert, Emeritus Professor John Sweeney, NUIM has assessed the reports the UK prepared under Article 37 of the EURATOM treaty and which the UK relied up on in determining its view on the potential for transboundary impacts from Hinkley Point C in the event of an accident. Below he has provided a brief summary of his technical report, with very stark and strong conclusion regarding the confidence on the competence of key elements of the Article 37 submission. Some of the key points:
 Martin Wall. The Irish Times. 22 January 2018. HSE has ‘no capacity’ to deal with nuclear or biological incident: https://goo.gl/i1rZrN
Attracta Uí Bhroin
Environmental Law Implementation Group, Irish Environmental Network
087 291 4061
Communications Manager, Environmental Pillar