Could nuclear power offer an alternative approach to energy creation in Ireland?

Poolbeg in Dublin is the largest ESB plant in the country. However, it is producing below capacity.

In 1974 the Electricity Supply Board (ESB) announced plans to build a nuclear power plant at Carnsore Point in County Wexford.

A proposed nuclear power station would produce around seventeen per cent of the country's electricity by 1984 in comparison to the full capacity of just seven per cent at Poolbeg. This is big even by international standards. Britain gets ten per cent of its electricity from fourteen nuclear power stations. in the USA, over forty nuclear plants produce less than half a per cent of the country's electricity. 

The ESB says that in the 1980s, the Irish system will be capable of successfully adjusting to a nuclear station of this size. However, for many, this is a lot of eggs in one basket.  

Seventeen per cent of the country's vital power from one plant.

Canadian nuclear physicist Walter Patterson comments on the complexity of nuclear reactors and the possibility of yielding little electricity from them when something goes wrong. 

If one small valve goes wrong in a reactor, you may suddenly lose five hundred megawatts of capacity on your system which gives the grid a terrible shock.

If Ireland was to introduced nuclear power, it would have to import all its nuclear fuel, uranium. The dark grey metal needs to be processed and refined for easy transportation.

At the Windscale nuclear plant in Britain, the uranium is subjected to a highly specialised treatment before it can be used. Some reactors require enriched uranium and in Ireland's case, the cost of the enriched uranium is of concern. 


This episode of 'Seven Days' was broadcast on 19 April 1974. The reporter is Brendan O'Brien.