Thursday, 5 April 2007

Ceisteanna (78, 79)

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

60 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will report on his recent meeting with the Environment Ministers of Ireland, Norway, and Austria at Dublin Castle. [13463/07]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

97 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress to date made by him in conjunction with other EU member States in opposing the expansion and use of nuclear power in Europe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13442/07]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 60 and 97 together.

I hosted a meeting of Environment Ministers from Iceland, Norway and Austria on 26 March in Dublin Castle. We were joined by the Parliamentary State Secretary of the Environment for Germany who also participated in our discussions on our shared concerns in relation to nuclear energy.

I have for some time held the view that the recently renewed debate on nuclear energy, which has been prompted by concerns regarding energy security and climate change, has not reflected all the issues inherent in the nuclear energy option. I had on occasion raised these views informally at international meetings with international environment colleagues and I received significant support.

While Ireland is opposed to the use of nuclear energy, Ireland, Austria, Iceland and Norway all acknowledge that it is the sovereign right of countries to choose their own mix of energy supplies. The primary objective of the Ministerial meeting in Dublin was to express our collective concerns that nuclear is being put forward as the solution to the climate change problem. We are also concerned that the current debate often seeks to downplay the serious issues of waste, adverse environmental impacts, proliferation, liability and safety, that go hand in hand with the nuclear industry.

We also discussed in some detail the issue of trans-boundary risks arising from nuclear. We were agreed that the safety issues and environmental impacts from radioactive discharges to the sea arising from the Sellafield plant in the UK were of significant concern and that continued reprocessing operations at the plant are economically and environmentally untenable.

Ireland, Austria, Iceland and Norway issued a joint statement following this meeting which illustrates and underlines the importance we attach to the presentation of a different view of nuclear. The very fact this joint statement was issued clearly shows that Ireland is not by any means alone in the views that we hold on nuclear.

We agreed to meet again in Vienna in the autumn, along with the Environment Ministers of other States that may be interested. I expect that further meetings of concerned Ministers will provide a particularly important opportunity to contribute to a real debate on the nuclear option.