Minister’s assurances on border nuclear waste plans inadequate – Adams

Louth TD Gerry Adams has warned that “Britain’s radioactive waste disposal policy poses a serious environmental threat to the people of the island of Ireland.”

Gerry Adams wrote to Minister Bruton following the publication of reports that the British government was examining the construction of a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) for the dumping of nuclear waste in the Mourne Mountains and at Slieve Gullion. The Minister has now responded.

Gerry Adams said: “The Minister’s response does not quash the genuine concerns nor provide the assurances needed by people living adjacent to the geological sites identified by the Radioactive Waste Management where they believe there can be the “safe disposal of higher-activity radioactive waste.”.

In his reply to my correspondence the Minister describes the report as a “screening report”. This he says “is part of a technical exercise to map the geological characteristics of locations across the UK and Northern Ireland.”

However, the full title of the report on the British government website is ‘National Geological Screening for a GDF’ (Geological Disposal Facility). It adds that its purpose is to summarise the “geology of England, Wales and Northern Ireland that is relevant to the safe disposal of higher-activity radioactive waste.”

Whatever the British claim about this being a technical exercise it is clearly about identifying potential locations for Geological Disposal Facilities for nuclear waste. The enormous long term dangers presented by nuclear waste is clearly identified in the introduction to the report. It claims that people will be shielded from radiation because of the depth of the facility and depending on the type of rock will “either limit or completely prevent radioactivity from moving towards the surface when other barriers eventually degrade”.

What does ‘limit’ mean? How much radioactive will reach the surface? How will it impact on water sources? It is also claimed that geological disposal facilities deep underground will be protected from changes in sea level or future ice ages! How can the British government possibly know what climate or geological changes will occur over thousands of years? It is also important to note that in a report – The Global Crisis of Nuclear Waste – Greenpeace warned that the storing of waste material deep underground “has shown major flaws which exclude it for now as a credible option.”

While current British government policy is about finding a willing community to host a GDF the fact is that after 40 years of trying, not one community in Britain has volunteered to allow a radioactive waste disposal facility to be constructed near them. The Irish government should not quietly accept British government assurances. It must be assertive in opposing the construction of a nuclear waste facility anywhere on the island of Ireland”.

The Louth TD was also critical of the Irish government’s policy in respect of the British nuclear plant at Hinkley Point C and the 100 year programme of decommissioning currently taking place at Sellafield.

Teachta Adams said: “The Irish government should have an unequivocal policy of opposition to the construction of all nuclear power plants. While the Environmental Protection Agency may have no concerns at the current running of existing British plants the reality is that nuclear power is a grave threat.

At a time when there needs to be a greater emphasis on alternative forms of producing energy the Irish government should be actively opposing the nuclear power industry.”

British government report can be found:

Louth at risk from border nuclear waste plans – Adams

Louth TD Gerry Adams has written to the Minister for the Environment Richard Bruton TD asking if the government is “aware of or was consulted about a proposal by the British state’sRadioactive Waste Management group to store waste nuclear material deep underground in the Mournes and Slieve Gullion area.” Gerry Adams said: “The Irish government must ensure that the British government knows that it will not tolerate any nuclear waste facility being constructed on the island of Ireland”.

Teachta Adams said: “The British government is currently investigating sites which could potentially become storage dumps for thousands of tons of nuclear waste being produced by the British nuclear industry. Specifically, the group have examined the Mourne Mountains and the Slieve Gullion region, which have ‘higher strength rock’, as potential sites for what they call a Geological Disposal Facility.

In a recent report published just before Christmas the Radioactive Waste Management identified “granites and similar strong rocks around Newry, in which we may be able to site a GDF”. A recent extensive report by Greenpeace – The Global Crisis of Nuclear Waste – has provided a stark warning of the dangers involved in dumping nuclear waste underground.

The report states that the storing of waste material deep underground “has shown major flaws which exclude it for now as a credible option.” It points out that despite spending billions of dollars and decades of planning the USA has failed to secure a geological disposal site.

In 2018 the British government commenced an attempt to persuade a community willing to host a radioactive dump. This is their sixth such attempt over the last four decades. So far none have agreed. Currently Britain has what Greenpeace has described as “one of the largest and most complex nuclear waste problems in the world.” Its nuclear waste legacy has been made “dramatically more dangerous and expensive by its decades long plutonium reprocessing program based at Sellafield”.

Irish citizens living along the east coast have long been aware of the significant risk to people and the environment as a result of decades of accumulation of hazardous waste at Sellafield, much of it stored in outdated nuclear facilities. While the Nuclear Waste Management group cannot at this stage construct a nuclear dump in the Mournes or South Armagh without local agreement, that may not always be the case.

The failure by the British government to persuade any community to accept a nuclear dump means that at some point a British government will have to take a decision on where this waste goes. Currently nuclear waste is piling up in Britain and in other states that use nuclear power.

Today there is a global crisis with an estimated 250,000 tons of nuclear waste. The Irish government must ensure that the British government knows that it will not tolerate any nuclear waste facility being constructed on the island of Ireland. The government should also express its opposition to the current construction of a nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point C in Somerset. This is another nuclear facility just across the Irish Sea.”