Legal advisers told the conference that Irish local authorities have the power to instruct officials to examine proposed nuclear developments in the UK and to submit objections to the relevant authorities. Several developments were highlighted for possible objections.
They included two developments at the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing centre in north-west England; the public consultation process for new waste authorisation at the UK's second reprocessing plant at Dounreay in northern Scotland; decommissioning of the ageing Trawsfynydd nuclear power station in Wales, and a forthcoming inquiry into radioactive waste policy in the House of Lords, the upper chamber of the British parliament.
A conference organiser said that one aim of participating in the public consultation process was to delay the development of nuclear projects and thereby increase costs and in the long run make the industry uneconomic. He noted that objectors to nuclear power were initially dismissed by government and industry but that persistence and changing public attitudes had forced the UK nuclear industry to be less secretive.
The conference marks the first time Irish and UK local authorities have formally met to discuss nuclear hazards. Members of the UK coalition of Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) have about half the population of the UK in their areas. There were representatives from dozens of UK local governments, including the Shetland Islands and the Channel Islands. The NFLA will host the next joint conference in Manchester next year.
Patricia McKenna, an Irish Green MEP, warned the conference against expecting the EU to act against nuclear reprocessing: "In the European Commission the prevailing culture is one of support for nuclear energy," she said.
Minister for Public Enterprise, Joe Jacobs, said that there were ongoing discussions with the UK authorities regarding the establishment of a formal bilateral agreement on nuclear safety and radiation protection measures. Mr Jacobs said that the Irish government continues to oppose the continuation and expansion of reprocessing of spent nuclear fuels at Sellafield.
Irish and UK joint standing conference on nuclear hazards: +353 1 205 4700; UK Nuclear Free Local Authorities, tel: +44 161 835 3645.
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