Welcome to AtomWatch - world nuclear power news and analysis

This blog is aimed at tracing the world news related to nuclear power development internationally and in particular countries. Being an independent resource, we accept all kinds of opinions, positions and comments, and welcome you to discuss the posts and tell us what you think.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Nuclear Energy Boosting Power Throughout World; Legislation Would Allow Hawaii to Consider This Option

[It appears that consideration of nuclear is expanding. Hawaii has traditionally been reluctant to study the use of nuclear energy.]


By Panos D. Prevedouros, PhD, 1/27/2009 11:46:15 AM
Author's note: Hawaii's State Legislature House Bill 1 proposes to task the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism with creating a framework for permitting nuclear power plant installations in Hawaii. By State Constitution, nuclear power plants are prohibited in Hawaii --although there are at least a couple of nuclear powered U.S. Navy vessels in Pearl Harbor at any time. A two thirds vote by the Legislature can amend the Constitution. The following text is my testimony in favor of this bill.

The scarcity and cost of fossil fuels makes the development of expensive nuclear energy a cost-effective if not essential proposition.

France and Japan are leading examples of reliance on nuclear power with minimal ill effects.

At the first oil crisis in 1973, only 1% of Japan’s electricity was produced by nuclear energy.

By the second oil crisis of 1979, 4% was from nuclear; in 2000 the ratio was up to 12% and the 2010 goal is 15%. As of 2005, Japan had 52 operating nuclear plants, 3 in construction and 8 in planning and design.

France is even more ahead: Its 59 nuclear plants produce 88% of the country’s electric power. There are about 440 nuclear power plants on the globe. France, Japan and the U.S. combined produce over 55% of the nuclear power energy on the globe.

The advantage of nuclear power is that it produces large amounts of dependable and easily controlled electric power like hydroelectric, coal-fired or oil-fired power plants. Solar, wind and wave energy have huge limitations in terms of capacity and reliability; practically all deployments are still experimental and heavily subsidized.

No question that solar, wind and wave energy will be partners for the long-term energy sustainability in Hawaii, but they are unlikely to be the providers of the majority of the needed power.

They too have their environmental downsides such as requirements of very large areas for deployment, major susceptibility to hurricanes and/or tsunamis, large construction costs and all the noxious shortcomings of building, maintaining and disposing of expansive and expensive arrays of batteries which have a rather short life span.

One advantage of compact power plants is that since they are largely self sufficient (i.e., they do not need a tanker to anchor by regularly to refuel the plant) they can be placed off shore in what ocean engineers call “large floating structures.” Thus, a nuclear power plant can be 20 miles away into the ocean (still easily accessible) and provide electricity to Oahu with a cable. There are undersea power plant transmission lines in excess of 40 miles.

However, this bill is not about building nuclear power plants. This bill simply provides a way for us to take the blindfolds off and begin to address the real issues of Hawaii sustainability, twenty or more years into the future. This bill will allow us to begin assessing the potential and work towards answers to questions, issues and challenges of nuclear energy in Hawaii.

Panos D. Prevedouros, PhD is a Professor of Civil Engineering with the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Hawaii at Manoa

No comments: