In the context of climate change and a growing scarcity of traditional energy sources, it is now more important than ever to look toward long-term solutions for energy. One of the most obvious but least discussed options in Ireland is nuclear power.
It is essential that we begin a debate on the future of nuclear power in Ireland. What is undeniable about nuclear power is the output/input ratio: “1 gram of Uranium is equivalent to approximately 3 tonnes of coal”. No other power source can offer such outstanding results.
It is essential to consider the cost benefit analysis of nuclear power. Is the enormous output energy worth the side effects? Can the energy harnessed be effectively distributed across the country? What happens when things go wrong?
Nuclear Power in Ireland
One of the great challenges this country faces is our isolation from mainland Europe. Ireland, more than any other European state, needs self-sufficiency in its energy production. With the exception of the Ukraine, Ireland receives the least amount of Russian gas in western Europe.
Ireland’s first and only instance of nuclear power generation (outside of research) was at the Rathlin O’Birne Lighthouse in County Donegal. It used a radioisotope thermoelectric generator, which utilises the heat produced by a radioactive material and a series of thermocouples to generate electricity. It was one of the first lighthouses powered by nuclear power and operated for 10 years from 1974 to 1984. The lighthouse was under the remit of the Nuclear Energy Board (NEB), whose purpose was to pursue the development of nuclear power stations in Ireland. NEB made plans to build a full nuclear power station in Wexford as a potential source for national energy.
However, NEB eventually became the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII). In 1993, following years of shifting attitudes towards nuclear energy in Irish society, the projects were abandoned. This negative shift can be attributed to the 1979 Three Mile Island accident, the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, and activism regarding the discharge of the Sellafield reprocessing plant into the Irish Sea. Additionally, the ESB’s interest in nuclear power was reduced as energy demand slowed in the 1970s and 1980s.
Today’s demand for sustainable energy, however, calls for current methods of producing energy to be questioned. The most important reason for having a debate on nuclear energy is a general lack of knowledge regarding nuclear energy and the consequent unmerited hysteria surrounding nuclear power.
Despite popular depictions, nuclear waste looks nothing like it does on The Simpsons. There is no green ooze in iron barrels, there are no clouds of gas, and, perhaps regrettably, there is no sign of Homer, Lenny, or Karl.
Nuclear waste takes shape in the form of uranium fuel rods. When generating nuclear power, atoms in the fuel rods are split by fired neutrons. Every time an atom is split, more neutrons are fired, which, in turn, creates a massive chain reaction. This particle reaction generates mass levels of energy and heat. When submerged in water the rapid boiling evaporates; the resulting steam powers and turns massive fans. Control rods, often made from silver, absorb the radioactive excess generated from the reaction, in order to prevent an exponential reaction, i.e. an explosion.
When the fuel rods are expended they are placed in water for approximately 5 years. After that, the fuel rods are moved into dry cask containers to sit for an unexciting century. As a result of these safety measures, no one has ever died from used fuel rod exposure.
Often people point to other forms of renewable energy, diverting attention away from nuclear energy. Of course, these alternatives are not without validity. Yet no other source of renewable energy is as efficient as the nuclear option.
There are some obvious problems to consider regarding renewable energies such as wind and solar. What does one do when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine? This may sound ridiculous (and Trumpian) but this is in fact a real problem. There is no way to efficiently store the energy generated from those two sources. And without a suitable way of storing excess we are dependent on alternatives when the weather is poor. Today, this is one of the primary justifications for why the coal burning facility in Moneypoint provides most of Ireland’s energy. Furthermore, solar, wind, and hydroelectric sources of energy do not generate all that much energy in the first case. Overcoming dependency on coal burning facilities in Ireland will, therefore, require a new element, one capable of delivering a baseline of power that can work in tandem with the other renewables.
Secondly, and more importantly, even if we were to overcome the aforementioned issue of energy storage and generation in other renewables, there are fundamental issues which cannot be overlooked.
The pollution caused by solar panels is perhaps one of the most undiscussed details when talking about renewable energy. According to a report by the Stuttgart Institute for Photovoltaics: “…contrary to previous assumptions, pollutants such as lead or carcinogenic cadmium can be almost completely washed out of the fragments of solar modules over a period of several months, for example by rainwater.”
These harmful materials have resulted in scores of deaths a year already. According to an article in the New Scientist by Herbert Inhabler, unconventional energy sources such as solar result in more deaths a year than nuclear energy. Proposals that solar panels should be installed on every roof in the country, especially a country as prone to rainfall as Ireland, is either ignorant, naïve, or negligent.
No other renewable energy engages seriously in the conversation about waste. One should raise an eyebrow when the materials in solar panels are poisonous but no one actually has a recommendation on how to dispose of them in the long run.
While it might be no surprise that nuclear power has caused fewer deaths than coal, oil, and gas, it may take one aback to hear that solar, hydro, and wind power have all caused more deaths in proportion to energy generated than nuclear power. It is only when the major disasters of Chernobyl and Fukushima are included in the statistics that nuclear power even begins to catch up to the deaths caused by wind power. Statistically, nuclear power is by far and away the safest energy source we can imagine.
Who benefits from the scaremongering around nuclear power as a renewable energy source? Is it not the case that when facing an environmental catastrophe, one ought to make use of all available sources of energy that do not contribute to the downfall of humanity? Would the dangers of nuclear energy not be greatly outweighed by the threat of extinction?
One would think so, but apparently not. It might, however, be posited that there are particular interests that do not wish to explore or develop nuclear energy. Being realistic, it has always been the coal and oil lobby who have stood to gain most from the lack of a serious competitor in the marketplace.
This is not a call to abandon all other sources of energy but rather to ask why any country who claims to be experiencing a “climate emergency” would not consider all possible options. Why is it that when nuclear power has caused the fewest deaths we are afraid of it?
Whatever the reason the time has come to move forward. Whatever course the world, and in particular Ireland, takes in addressing environmental crises, it is undisputed that political interests and corporate power are far more dangerous than nuclear power.
A demonstration protesting U.S. President Donald Trump’s visit to Ireland drew over five thousand supporters outside Dublin’s Garden of Remembrance yesterday, with the event being organised by a broad coalition of progressive organisations under the banner of Stop Trump Ireland. Speakers included representatives from groups such as Extinction Rebellion, Union of Students in Ireland (USI) and the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC), who shared the platform with a number of other campaigners, activists and TDs.
The demonstration proceeded to march down O’Connell Street, where one of the protestors told LookLeft Magazine why they had decided to attend the rally.
“We don’t want to see imperialist warmongers welcomed into this country by our Taoiseach. Like most if not all American presidents before him, that’s exactly what Trump is.”
Also cited was the continued complicity of the Irish government in U.S. war crimes, by allowing American military aircraft to use Shannon Airport as a stop-off point as they make their way to wage war around the world.
“Even though he wants to seem like a trendy and modern Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar has welcomed Trump into this country while staying silent on the fact that the Americans use Ireland as a stop-off point on their way to bomb men, women and children in the Middle East. He could try and stop this, but like every Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil government, he doesn’t.”
The day before this event took place, the Peace and Neutrality Alliance (PANA) held a vigil outside of the U.S. Embassy in Ballsbridge, which was supported by a number of groups including Workers’ Party Youth and the Connolly Youth Movement. Although less well attended, the demonstration gained the attention of passersby, many of whom inquired as to what the protest was about before joining.
Baptist pastor Steven Anderson has become the first person ever to be barred from entering Ireland under exclusion powers created in 1999.
The controversial American preacher had planned to hold a sermon in Dublin on May 26th, but under Section 4 of the Immigration Act 1999, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan signed an exclusion order “in the interests of public policy.” This follows a petition which called on the government to do as much, gaining over 14,000 signatures. Anderson, who described the victims of a 2016 shooting in a gay club in Orland as “disgusting paedophiles and perverts”, has also been accused of spouting anti-Semitic rhetoric in his sermons, conflating the persecution of the Jewish people with “the judgement of God.” His church, the Faithful Word Baptist Church, has previously released statements which have been described as promoting holocaust denial. The church has also been labeled a hate group by a number of watchdog groups in the United States.
It is understood that the Dublin sermon was to be part of a wider European tour which had also included visits to Sweden and the Netherlands. However, Dutch security minister Mark Harbers announced earlier this month that Anderson had been banned from the Schengen Zone, the area in which the European Union accommodates for travel between member states.
Anderson has also previously been banned from the United Kingdom, South Africa and faced deportation from Botswana in 2016 following comments he made on the radio claiming that gay people should be killed.
Yesterday, a letter from the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) was sent to the CEO of Dublin Bus, highlighting the concerns that the union holds with Dublin Bus carrying an advertising campaign for investigative journalist turned right-wing conspiracy theorist Gemma O’Doherty, who is running in the upcoming European elections. The letter, written by NBRU General Secretary Dermot O’Leary, claims that the candidate holds “questionable opinions on the multicultural makeup of Irish society.”
O’Doherty, who has made a name for herself in recent times for touting anti-LGBT, anti-choice, anti-vaccination and anti-migrant rhetoric, announced her candidacy for the Dublin constituency in the European elections last month. Additionally, in the wake of the Christchurch massacre, a mosque shooting carried out in New Zealand by a white supremacist which left 51 people dead, the ex-Irish Independent journalist claimed that the attack was in fact a false flag operation and not driven by far-right extremism. The NBRU letter claimed that the advertisement campaign was in “direct contradiction between the views/principles of the candidate and the indisputable fact that Dublin Bus is a multicultural employer.”
The letter acts as reassurance that the NBRU will not be drafted into such divisive and scaremongering politics, seemingly a necessary statement to make as far-right populism continues to increase worldwide. O’Leary has said that his union will fully support any driver who refuses to drive buses bearing the advertisement on the grounds of conscientious objection.
The left and trade union movement must not only voice its opposition to racism, fascism and bigotry, but offer an explicitly class-based alternative to working class people who may otherwise buy into far-right propaganda.
The Union of Students in Ireland has called on the Irish Government to include the right to third-level education in the Higher Education Authority Bill 2020, currently being considered by the Department of Education.
The demand comes after a country-wide student call for access to education, backed up by a motion unanimously passed at USI’s Annual Congress, 2019.
USI points out that at present, despite universal access to secondary education, there is only constitutional provision for primary education. This is deemed unacceptable by the student movement, and USI demands that education be treated as a public good.
USI President, Síona Cahill stated:
“The students of Ireland have been protesting on the streets, lobbying our representatives, voicing our disappointment in the current state of Higher Education funding online and to the media, demanding the Government take action. All the while, our Government have failed to listen to our calls and make education at third-level inclusive for all through a sustainable funding model
“The high profile Rebecca Carter case in the High Court demonstrated that access to Further and Higher Education in Ireland is under threat. The judge in the initial ruling recognised that in order to be economically and socially prosperous in today’s society, it was imperative that citizens have access to higher education. The Government, rather than act to legislate on that right, shamefully challenged the ruling.
“Students in Ireland today face a soaring cost of living and the second highest fees in Europe, while Government has actively disinvested in third-level education. Education is a right, not a privilege. Thousands of students have mobilised against student loans, to defend the SUSI grant, and to demand that Government publicly fund Higher Education.”
In a September 2018 High Court ruling, Mr Justice Richard Humphreys stated that:
“In the modern world, it is difficult and in some cases impossible to earn one’s livelihood without access to higher education and vocational training.”
This was subsequently challenged by Minister for Education, Joe McHugh TD.
The Union of Students in Ireland, alongside the European Students’ Union (ESU), are supporting the Global Campaign for Education (GCE).The GCE’s Global Action Week for Education in 2019 is taking place between the 24th of April and the 1st of May, focusing on making the right to an inclusive, equitable, quality, free public education a reality.
USI has supported the Global Campaign by calling for third-level education in Ireland to be protected as a right, highlighting and promoting the value of education to society.
A plaque was unveiled yesterday at a ceremony in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin, to remember those killed in the workplace in Ireland, including two workmen who tragically died during the renovation of the GPO in 1919.
There were 37 deaths in the workplace in Ireland last year and Workers’ Memorial Day is held to raise awareness and remember those who died while working.
The theme of Workers’ Memorial Day this year was women’s contribution to safety at work. Theresa Moriarity of the Irish Labour History Society highlighted the story of May Abraham (Tennant), a Dublin woman and one of the early factory inspectors.
The event was attended by Minister of State Pat Breen TD, as well as ICTU General Secretary Patricia King and representatives of the Health and Safety Authority, IBEC, and CIF.
The government is progressing its plans to increase the pension age and ensure the benefits of improved healthcare and technology are not shared with workers.
At present, the age of entitlement to the State pension is 66. It is scheduled to increase to 67 in 2021 and 68 in 2028. Published last October, the Roadmap for Pension Reform commits to linking future changes in the State pension age to life expectancy.
The Sunday Business Post is reporting that the government plans to save €1 billion per year on pensions by getting workers to work beyond 68, based on the Stability Programme Update, which was published earlier this week by Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe. Donohoe’s press release did not raise the matter.
From the SBP:
With further improvements in healthcare on the way, government officials are expecting that people will live for at least two years longer than they do now by 2070. Under what is called the dynamic retirement age, a 5 per cent increase in life expectancy would lead to a 5 per cent increase in the retirement age.
Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty, has stated that her Department will start planning for the new “dynamic retirement age” from 2022.
Fianna Fáil has been accused of promoting increased EU and NATO spending by the Peace and Neutrality Alliance (PANA).
Highlighting that Fianna Fail is fighting the 2019 EU Parliament elections as a member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), PANA pointed to the ALDE Election Manifesto, which states:
We believe Member States and the EU as a whole must assume greater responsibility for its security and we support a common EU approach wherever possible to the strategic challenges Europe faces today, and to progressively introduce Qualified Majority Voting on such matters. We welcome greater European cooperation in defence spending and the agreement of PESCO, and encourage Member States to further increase defence cooperation in areas of mutual advantage, in greater cooperation with and to complement NATO which remains the backbone of military cooperation and guarantor of collective defence for Europe.”
This Election Manifesto effectively gives majority control to the more dominant European alliance of France and Germany who benefit most from an increase in EU/NATO military spending, according to PANA.
The Alliance also highlighted that on Thursday April 18th, the European Parliament agreed a proposal for a €13 billion military research and development fund into such controversial weapons, such as armed drones and killer robotic weapon systems. Not only will this European Defence Fund exacerbate a global race in such technologies, but this could also lead to an increase in arms exports to repressive regimes like Saudi Arabia and fuel increased conflict in this region.
According to Roger Cole, Chairperson of the Peace and Neutrality Alliance,
“Frank Aiken (1898-1983) was Ireland’s greatest Minister for Foreign Affairs and, as a member of Fianna Fail, he helped to cement a non-aligned Irish identity at the United Nations along with the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that sought to be a crucial part of the process of abolishing nuclear weapons.
“The fact that FF has now signed up to an EU Parliament Manifesto that is openly promoting greater EU collaboration with NATO, a nuclear armed military alliance, committed to the first use of nuclear weapons, is a total and absolute rejection of Irish Neutrality that was once a core value of the Fianna Fail Party.
” To do so when US President Donald Trump, a most dangerous and unreliable leader, who still dominates NATO, and could very easily start World War 3, is one of the most frightening decisions Mr. Martin and his party have ever made.”
Nursing Now, a global campaign to improve health by raising the status of nursing, was launched in Ireland today.
The worldwide campaign aims for the recognition of nurses’ contribution to healthcare, gender equality, wider society and improved economies. Its aims include greater investment in nursing, more nurses in leadership positions, and increasing nurses’ input and impact on healthcare. The campaign is bringing to policy makers the tangible evidence needed to show that nurses improve health and will make a crucial contribution to realising universal health coverage.
Nursing Now will run until 2020 – the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth.
INMO President and nurse Martina Harkin-Kelly said:
Patients and health staff can tell you – nurses are consistently undervalued. Nursing Now aims to change that, demonstrating the incredible work that nurses do worldwide. Not only are we the lynchpin of health services, nurses are a driving force in ensuring healthy lives and promoting wellbeing around the world.
INMO Director of Professional and Regulatory Services Dr Edward Mathews said:
Nursing and nurses in leadership are changing the face of healthcare delivery in Ireland and worldwide. Innovative and effective developments in nurse led and delivered healthcare are improving health outcomes and delivering more economic healthcare. Fundamentally, nurses are improving lives, our society and economies and we can do more when nurses are empowered to do their job.
After months of protests, events are unfolding fast in Sudan, with the removal of longtime leader, Omar Bashir from power. However, the changes appear mostly cosmetic as senior military figures have stepped in to prevent the dismantling of the entire Islamist regime by the mass protests.
Below is a recent statement from the Sudanese Communist Party and followed by the core demands of the revolutionary forces.
Omar Bashir is gone, but the regime stays. What happened during the 11th of April was a palace coup, a carbon copy of the coup staged by the coup in Egypt to abort their Jan. 2011 revolution.
The temporary set back of the military coup will be resisted with the increased unity and determination of the masses to roll back and defeat the present military transitional council.
Millions of Sudanese defy the military curfew and occupy the square in front of the army headquarters. The forces for freedom and change defy the military transitional council and demand immediate hand over of power to the representatives of the peoples.
Comrades Al Khateeb and Masoud are free, both have visited The Communist Party headquarters where they received standing ovation under the slogan “Freedom, Peace, Justice, and Revolution is the People’s Choice”.
Despite the success of the revolution in removing Al Bashir, who enjoyed the outside support of the Troika, EU, USA, Canada, and local reactionary governments like Qatar, Egypt, and Turkey, and the freeing of all political detainees, except some in DABAK prison.
The Sudan Communist Party and all the opposition forces are adamant that they will fight to continue the revolution until the establishment of a civil government that represents the masses and the implementation of the democratic alternative programme accepted by all the forces including the forces of national consensus, Sudan Call, The Professionals Association and the armed groups.
The people chant everywhere THE REVOLUTION CONTINUES TILL FINAL VICTORY.
Central Media Bureau
Sudanese Communist Party
12 April 2019
The Revolutionary forces are demanding:
Both the new head of the government and the Director of National Security and Intelligence must step and be held to account.
Dissolution of the National Congress party and all the regime’s organisations and the transfer of their property to the National Treasury.
Dissolution of Parliament (Legislative Authority)
Securing the independence of the judiciary by removing all cadres of the National Congress from the judiciary and bring back those who were arbitrarily dismissed in the past.
Sacking the cadres of the National Congress Party and the Muslim Brotherhood from the army, security and organisations.
Dissolve the paramilitary forces and security forces who participated in the regime, whether in public or secret, and transfer their property to the general command of the Sudanese Army.
Dissolve the government, prosecute, and prevent the cadres who participated in the rescue system from holding public positions for life.
Formation of a National Transitional Government in which there is no one who participated in the rescue governments.
Submission of deposed Omar Al-Bashir for public trial.