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Cunningham airs Irish concerns over new Sizewell C nuclear plant

Sinn Féin councillor Tom Cunningham
Sinn Féin councillor Tom Cunningham, photographed in March 2020. Photo Credit: Kathy Gilroy-Barry.

Sinn Féin Councillor Tom Cunningham is not convinced there would be ‘zero risk’ to Ireland by the construction of a proposed new nuclear power plant in Surrey, England.

The Clogherhead-based councillor has registered his objection to the plant, citing potential effects on Irish agriculture in the event of an incident at the Sizewell C Project, located in Suffolk on the east coast of the country.

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Cllr Cunningham has submitted a letter to the Louth County Council planning department, objecting to the proposal under the terms of the 1991 United Nations Espoo Convention and the 2011 EU Environmental Impact Assessment Directive which requires transboundary public consultation in respect of the Sizewell C Project and its potential impacts on neighbouring States.

“The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) recognised that even though the concentrations of radioactivity in the air and radioactive contamination on the ground along the east coast of Ireland in the event of an incident at Sizewell C would be one order of magnitude lower than if an incident occurred at the closest nuclear site, Wylfa, an incident at Sizewell C could still result in food controls and agricultural protective actions being introduced in Ireland,” he said in a statement on Friday.

“Anything that poses a threat to our fishing or agricultural economy must be challenged,” Cllr Cunningham added, while also highlighting the potential economic impact on Ireland should a catastrophic event occur at the plant.

UK Secretary of State Dominic Raab has undertaken two screenings in relation to the project, with both determining that the proposed development is not likely to have a significant adverse transboundary effect on the environment in Ireland.

The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) study conducted in 2016, The Potential Economic Impact of a Nuclear Incident — An Irish Case Study, estimated the potential financial losses to Ireland in the event of a nuclear incident to be as high as €160bn.

The study also found that even in the lowest risk scenario where there is no actual contamination in Ireland, the reputational losses in relation to tourism and export markets could be as high as €4bn.

“Given that Ireland relies heavily on its food exports and tourism, in the event of an incident even the perception of contamination would lead to a significant economic impact and that is something County Louth or the country as a whole can ill afford.”

The councillor also aired his unhappiness that the plant operators may not be accountable should any incident occur, given the fact the British government are to leave the European Atomic Energy Community post-Brexit.
Cllr Cunningham also cited his concerns over the nuclear plant’s accountability after Brexit.

“This is concerning because they would no longer be subject to the European Court of Justice and to a coordinated regulatory regime. I am concerned that any country feels they should have a free hand with nuclear power with little or no accountability to an international body like Euratom, but I am particularly concerned when that country is our nearest neighbour and the people in County Louth and along the East coast of Ireland could be affected.”

“Given the absence of access to the European Court of Justice after Brexit, the concern of the long term funding of a new nuclear regulator and the potential impacts to the Irish public and our economy, I feel it is imperative that this proposal be challenged and stopped. In this day and age we should be looking for safer and more eco- friendly ways of generating power anyway.”

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