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Irish Left Archive: Nuclear Ireland? by Matthew Hussey, Carole Craig, Co-op Books/Focus Ireland, 1978 November 30, 2009

Posted by irishonlineleftarchive in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Miscellaneous.
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NUKE IRL

This is a document, and many thanks to Jim Monaghan for forwarding it, that to some extent runs at a tangent to much of the Archive. But it is without question that in the mid to late 1970s campaigns and activism developed that were centered on issues beyond socialism as such or the North and foreshadowed social campaigns and the rise of the environmental movement and its political face in the Ecology Party and later the transition of that organisation to a Green Party. However, that said, the left in all its forms was involved in the campaign to prevent the arrival of commercial nuclear power on our shores. The Fianna Fáil government had produced a Green Paper on energy, ‘Energy-Ireland, Discussion Document on some Current Energy Problems and Options’.

Indeed the book is explicit in noting that it ‘looks at these opposing views [on nuclear energy] and many others – in the context of the nuclear power station now being considered for Carnsore Point in County Wexford’. Written by Dr. Matthew Hussey of Kevin St. College of Technology and Carole Craig, a journalist, the quote on the back of the pamphlet indicates the approach taken within:

Fission energy is safe only if a number of critical devices work as they should, if a number of people in key positions follow all their instructions, if there is no sabotage, no hijacking of the transports, if no reactor fuel processing plant or repository anywhere in the world is situated in a region of riots, or guerilla activity, and no revolution or war – even a ‘conventional one’ – takes place in these regions. The enormous quantities of extremely dangerous materail must not get into the hands of ignorant people or desperadoes. No acts of God can be permitted.
Hans Alfren, Nobel Laureate

Inside it deals with the science of nuclear energy, safety issues, aspects of the econmics of nuclear power and the political ramifications. it also discusses alternatives. Throughout it is illustrated by Martyn Turner cartoons and strips. It’s actually quite a snappy read and very evocative of the period within which it was produced. Odd to reflect that as recently as this last week, John Gormley was arguing that the nuclear option while not his choice was not something that he would dismiss out of hand.

On a further tangent to this topic there’s some illuminating material inside the Lost Revolution on the agonising within SFWP on the issue of nuclear technology.

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Comments»

1. Seán Ó Tuama - November 30, 2009

Thanks for posting this excellent pamphlet whose arguments are essentially as valid now as they were then. I was quite active on the issue at the time and remember this publication well. It is well-argued and concise and I used it a lot in debates.Mattie also wrote some good stuff in Irish on the issue at a time when it was much more difficult to find much scientific or technical materialon in Irish.

As I have said before on another thread, I am very worried about the way that nuclear power is being sneaked back on the agenda in Ireland and elsewhere under the cover of the climate change campaign. I have been suspicious for a long time of the way in which politicians and businessmen not known in the past for their concern about the environment have jumped on board the climate change bandwagon.

IMO, this is surely a case of the remedy being worse than the disease.

Back to Carnsore Point, anyone?

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2. Starkadder - November 30, 2009

Fergus Cassidy has some memories of the Carnsore Point
protests here:

http://www.ferguscassidy.ie/other-writing-carnsore.html

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3. WorldbyStorm - November 30, 2009

No problem Seán. Got to say I too find it bizarre that it’s coming back up again as a serious proposition. May well be back to Carnsore.

Thanks for the link Starkadder.

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4. EamonnCork - December 2, 2009

The Carnsore protest movement is one of the most heartening stories of the seventies because it was very much a grass roots movement, crewed by young people and largely bereft of mainstream political support. It took place at roughly the same time as the Wood Quay and Loughan House movements, both of which could call on far more big guns from the establishment and neither of which achieved their objective. You can argue that the Carnsore Point decision was ultimately decided by the Three Mile Island accident but the fact remains that the Carnsore people had made nuclear safety an issue here in the first place. On the day after the first Carnsore festival, for example, Fine Gael called for a public inquiry into the plan. It was a great triumph for what were known when I was young as ‘That Crowd.’ As in ‘That Crowd are against everything.’ I suspect many members of CLR were also members of ‘That Crowd.’
The anti-nuclear movement had to battle such brilliant arguments as the following one, made by the Minister who initially made the nuclear station proposal, intellectual powerhouse Desmond O’Malley. “Some hospitals in this country were using radio-active equipment which presented a greater danger than a conventional nuclear power station. If those opposed to the building of a nuclear power station here were consistent they would also want to close down St. Lukes Hospital in Dublin because a great deal of equipment containing radioactive substances were used there every day on many patients. But no-one had ever suggested that the hospital was a source of danger to either residents of the locality or the patients.”
This was some years before the Chernobyl X-Ray department accident.
Though time has not been kind either to the statement of David Nolan, Chairman of the Nuclear Safety Association, also made in 1979, that, “in a few years time solar energy and wave power, which were now at an advanced experimental stage, would produce all the energy required.”

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5. Neues aus den Archiven der radikalen (und nicht so radikalen) Linken « Entdinglichung - December 4, 2009

[...] Matthew Hussey/Carole Craig: Nuclear Ireland? [...]

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6. Irish Left Archive: Abortion A choice for Irish Women – Irish Woman’s Right to Choose Group – June 1981 « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - January 11, 2010

[...] a sense this is a companion piece to the Nuclear Energy pamphlet posted up here late last year (and many thanks to Jim Monaghan for forwarding it the [...]

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7. Carole Craig - September 3, 2010

What fun to know the pamphlet survived. Please include in your discussion of it the wonderful drawings that Martyn Turner allowed us to use for free….also at that time there was a great demonstration — Get to the Point — at Carnsore Point at which we launched the book.
Carole Craig

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WorldbyStorm - September 4, 2010

Carole, many thanks for commenting. The images are inside the PDF, but I’ll certainly find one and put it beside the pamphlet cover. If you’d like to write a few words on the pamphlet that would be very very welcome.

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Carole Craig - September 4, 2010

Sorry don’t have any comments except that it is wonderful there is such an archive and that it is important to push energy solutions which do repeat the pattern of corporate control which I what I believe nuclear power is very much about.

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Carole Craig - September 4, 2010

Whoops DO NOT REPAT it should have read

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WorldbyStorm - September 5, 2010

I tend to the same viewpoint. In extremis, well perhaps then we have to see, but we’re not in extremis yet.

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8. Pope Epopt - September 4, 2010

I’m also very concerned about the opportunist piggy-backing of a very powerful nuclear lobby on the back of justifiable concern about AGW. They have just won a considerable victory in Germany in getting the lifetime of old nuclear reactors extended.

But I’m not sure that we can go ‘back to Carnsore’, admirable victory though it was. Things have moved on since. For instance:

1. We now know that oil and gas is peaking rapidly while our per-capita energy consumption is probably three times what it was in the seventies.

2. We know that reversion to coal-fired power generation would lead to a catastrophic increase in greenhouse gas forcing of global temperature. Carbon capture and storage has proved to be so much hot air and PR from Big Coal.

3. Nuclear reactor technology has improved and they are intrinsically safer than they were in the 60, 70s and 80s of the last century.

4. We know that there is a problem with the main potential source of renewable energy on this island i.e. Wind being intermittentl available. We also know that a European network of HVDC lines connected to large-scale solar power plants in Southern Europe and north Africa, along with Icelandic geothermal could deal with this
irregularity of supply. This clearly assumes a great deal of political cohesion and stability.

5. We would have to build a hell of a lot of wind plant to be self-sufficient in energy, even assuming a do-able drop in per capita consumption of 50%. There would be no room for nimbyisms.

I suggest that new nuclear power plant is not best opposed in terms of plant safety any more. Where it can be successfully opposed is in terms of energy and financial inputs versus output, and the security of fissile material, which I believe the original campaign did highlight.

We are quite unclear (unlike with renewables such as wind) what the ERoEI (energy return of energy invested) is for non-fast-breede nuclear fission. In line with the capitalist tactic of cost externalisation the nuclear lobby studiously avoids factoring in:

a) The energy costs of mining and purifying an increasingly scarce resource of fissile uranium.

b) The energy costs of transporting and protecting fuel and waste against theft and insider losses.

c) The energy cost of long-term secure storage of waste.

d) The energy cost of building the nuclear reactor.

If we did these numbers properly, I’m not convinced that the ERoEI of nuclear power would be exactly stellar. The trouble is this is a highly contested field, understandably, given the potential profits to be made.

See the Oil Drum for further discussion of ERoEI for nuclear power. Similar spin covers the financial costs,
especially if you assume the rise in fissile fuel costs that would result from a wide-spread switch to nuclear power.

Believe me, this issue is going to come back to haunt us, big time, especially if the global economy starts to grow and fossil fuel prices rocket. We are massively dependent on imported energy, in a way that it crazy for an island with access to so much wind. Those who oppose nuclear power had better have their ducks in a row, as they say.

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WorldbyStorm - September 4, 2010

Absolutely spot on. Want to clean it up into a short post and I’ll post it up next week?

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9. Pope Epopt - September 4, 2010

Sure – thanks for the invitation. I’ll need to do a bit more research so it may be later than next week – got a lot on.

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WorldbyStorm - September 4, 2010

That’d be brilliant… it’s just that it sort of summarises a range of choices that face people. Not necessarily the only ones, but certainly the stuff people have to think about… thanks a million.

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10. yourcousin - September 5, 2010

Would love to see a post about energy consumption and our (respective) societies.

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WorldbyStorm - September 5, 2010

Hmmm… Pope Epopt?

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11. Jim Monaghan - September 5, 2010

On agonising, everyones favourite loony group the Spartacists are pro nuclear power. I would guess that Smullen was as well. Given the safety record in the USSR was much worse than in the USA one would wonder

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rebel - August 19, 2013

Smullen was against the American model of Nuclear Power Stations. He favored the Russian type ( true story).
Around the same time Smullen was championing Zeppelins ( Goodyear) to to keep an eye on our fishing beds.

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