Ireland should at least consider nuclear power as a way to meet future energy demand and lower carbon emissions, according to a recent report commissioned by the state-owned EirGrid.

“Many countries’ approach to decarbonisation includes a growing nuclear component. Although nuclear power stations are not currently a legal option in Ireland, we believe that due consideration of them as an option is worthwhile,” says the report carried out by energy consultancy Pöyry.

Nuclear is just one of the options considered by the report. Other options include gas-fired generation, carbon capture and storage and renewables.

“Renewables and gas generation look set to play a part in all future portfolio options. There are wide and varying options for how the remainder of the portfolio will be made up, ” says chief executive of EirGrid Group Dermot Byrne.

If Ireland does decide pursue the nuclear option a change in the law and a change in public acceptance will be required to go ahead. And, because Ireland is such a small country with an installed capacity of around 5GW today, the addition of a 1GW nuclear power plant would have a significant impact. The decision to go down the nuclear route would, therefore, effectively require a moratorium on the construction of other power stations, particularly those that would run a baseload, according to the report.

Ireland would also need to set up its own nuclear industry, including a regulatory body, constructors and operators.

“Without being prescriptive, we would suggest that if a nuclear plant is to start operating on the island by 2035, the process of communicating information, public debate and policy formation should be starting now, and that further delays will simply push back on a possible future commissioning date,” the report concluded.

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