SDLP South Down MP Margaret Ritchie highlighted the high cost to the public purse and the risk to public health across the eastern Irish seaboard by the continuation of the UK’s nuclear power programme when she addressed a group committed to a nuclear-free future.
Ms Ritchie was making the keynote speech at a conference organised by the Ireland branch of Nuclear Free Local Authorities at Down District Council on Friday (12 October).
Speaking at the event, she said: “Nuclear power, when mismanaged, poses a huge threat to the health and safety of everyone in a wide radius from affected plants and I have always believed this was not a risk worth taking.
“Despite difficulties and problems with plants in the past, not least at Sellafield, which impacts directly on my constituency, the coalition government is continuing to commit billions of pounds of public money to managing nuclear stations and dealing with the toxic waste they produce.
“£1.7bn per year is spent on managing waste and other liabilities… this is over half the budget for the Department of Energy and Climate Change.
“The MOX plant at Sellafield, recently closed, cost the taxpayer £1.6bn. The benefits of this massive expenditure do not, to my mind, outweigh the risks.
“I commend the government’s aim to de-carbonise the electricity sector – the public and the planet will thank them for it – but I do not believe that doing so must come at the price of continuing to subsidise nuclear power.
“I will be continuing to lobby the government and supporting my colleagues in NFLA – a body I was a member of when I was a councillor – in their work to show the government that our economy and our public health deserves better than the continuation of an era of failed nuclear plants rotting where they stand.”