Prospecting licences to two companies seeking to explore for uranium in Donegal have been refused by the Minister for Natural Resources Eamon Ryan.Mr Ryan said that by declining the applications for licences - the first step in the mining process - he was signalling a wider policy decision to prohibit such activity in Ireland."It would be hypocritical to permit the extraction of uranium for use in nuclear reactors in other countries, while the nuclear generation of electricity is not allowed in Ireland and particularly while the Irish Government continues to object to the operation of nuclear power generation at Sellafield and other locations," he said in a statement.
Uranium prospecting licences were granted previously in the 1970s and 1980s, when the rare ore was discovered in Donegal, according to the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. The most recent applications were made just a few weeks ago."Granting a licence carries an implicit policy agreement permitting its extraction should a viable prospect be discovered," Mr Ryan said. "This is where my concern lies."The most likely end use of any uranium extracted in Ireland would be for nuclear electricity generation. There are also significant environmental and public health concerns surrounding uranium mining, including contamination of ground and surface water supplies and radiation levels."In this decision we are following the example set by other countries who remain opposed to the nuclear generation of electricity, such as New Zealand."
The Minister's decision was welcomed by Friends of the Irish Environment. It hoped it marked the advent of an "non-hypocritical energy regime."Meanwhile, local authority officials from Ireland and Britain will meet in Dublin this week to plan the next stage in their campaign to oppose the development of new nuclear power stations.Dublin City Council and South Dublin County Council will jointly host the annual British and Irish Local Authorities Conference on Nuclear Hazards, which will be attended by more than 50 delegates.
Themes include the resurgence of the nuclear lobby in Europe, British proposals for nuclear stations and alternative strategies for meeting energy needs and tackling climate change. The conference will be opened by Mr Ryan on Friday.
Ruadhán Mac Cormaic
The Irish Times