The President of Engineers Ireland has suggested it could be time to reawaken discussion about the use of nuclear energy here.

John Power said the debate would have to take place in an informed, mature and balanced manner.

"We, as engineers, need to be innovative in relation to the provision of energy while keeping climate change, and its effects, to the forefront of our minds," Mr Power said.

"The extensive use of fossil fuels has created an enormous challenge for all of us," he said.

"Ireland needs to be pragmatic in relation to our decarbonisation goals, and this should include re-examining legislative restrictions that preclude the generation of nuclear energy in this country under the Electricity Regulation Act, 1999 (Section 18)," he added.

Mr Power added that innovative approaches, including the use of Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, have to be given real consideration in order to deal with the issue of energy shortages in the years ahead.

However, environmental groups are likely to be implacably opposed to the idea of introducing nuclear energy to Ireland.

Concerns about the risk of a nuclear accident and the challenge of how to deal safely with nuclear waste would make such a debate highly controversial.

Mr Power was speaking as 450 engineers gathered for the organisation's annual conference in Dublin today.

It heard from UK engineer and nuclear expert, Paul Stein, who is chairman of Rolls-Royce Small Modular Reactors.

Speaking in advance, Mr Stein said these reactors offer a highly competitive source of continuous clean energy.

"With enhanced safety and security built in, their relatively small size compared to the conventional nuclear plant means they take up less than a tenth of the space, require significantly less capital outlay, need less staff, and are not exposed to the vagaries of construction in the open environment, yet still provide a safe, robust, and reliable carbon-free energy source," he said.

He also said the amount of nuclear waste from an SMR is tiny and can be managed safely and securely.