Should Hawaii use Nuclear Power for its Energy Needs?
Sen. Fred Hemmings
It is incredible that Hawaii does not utilize nuclear energy as another means of supplying one of our most basic needs: clean, efficient energy.
Due to the lack of innovation and courageous leadership in years gone by, Hawaii ranks first among all states for dependence on fossil fuels, while simultaneously being the state with the most potential for energy diversity.
It just doesn’t make sense.
What further exacerbates the lunacy of not having nuclear energy in Hawaii is that, at any given time, Hawaii hosts a number of nuclear reactors. We know that nuclear submarines and warships in Pearl Harbor have safely utilized nuclear energy for more than 50 years. Hawaii’s dependence on fossil fuels, especially oil, is disastrous for our economy and for our independence. Japan, France and many U.S. states safely utilize nuclear energy to meet their needs. What is important to know, besides the safety record of nuclear energy, is that much nuclear waste is now being recycled.
Under the leadership of Gov. Linda Lingle, a goal has been set for Hawaii to be 70 percent weaned from fossil fuels — oil and coal — by the year 2030. This is a huge step in the right direction. Nuclear energy could “bust down the doors” of energy independence. Combined with renewable sources, such as wind, solar and thermal, Hawaii could be 100 percent fossil fuels independent by the year 2020.
Besides being self-sufficient for our electric needs with nuclear energy, we could also use excess capacity at low demand times to energize all our ground transportation, making us the first state where electric cars are the norm.
Opponents of nuclear energy use unfounded scare tactics and, sadly, in Hawaii, decision-making often yields to the most strident, uninformed and loudest opposition.
Nuclear energy has a great track record. There is no logical reason for not utilizing this energy source to propel Hawaii into the 21st century as a clean, energy-independent and self-sufficient state.
Hawaii’s only safe nuclear option is located 93 million miles away — the sun. Let’s keep it there.
Given our small islands and diverse indigenous resources, nuclear power just doesn’t make sense for Hawaii. Even in a perfect world free of accidents, nuclear’s environmental, financial, logistical and opportunity costs are simply too high.
Today, splitting atoms for energy is by no means clean. The mining, production and disposal of nuclear fuel is messy and energy intensive. The dual threats of accidents and persistent radioactive waste make it difficult for nuclear power to pencil out economically. That’s one reason the nuclear industry enjoys a vast subsidy through a taxpayer-backed liability cap. No one wants to own that risk, so the public holds the bag.
Logistically, nuclear is the wrong technology for Hawaii. Siting such a facility would be nearly impossible, and the required evacuation area surrounding the plant will surely exceed the boundaries of the island itself. And what would we use for power when the nuclear facility has to go off-line for maintenance and refueling?
Recent blackouts have demonstrated that big power plants and big transmission lines are vulnerable; whereas distributed and diverse energy sources make our power grid more robust against Mother Nature’s whims.
The bottom line is we don’t need nuclear. We can do much better for Hawaii.
We are blessed with a host of clean energy resources, from wind to solar to ocean energy. So ample, in fact, is solar power that each rooftop statewide receives an average of about 15 gallons of gasoline equivalent in the form of sunlight daily. We are the Saudi Arabia of sun — and of wind and ocean energy, for that matter. Let’s choose to tap these safe, sensible, clean, decentralized and indigenous sources of energy to power our economy.
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