[ RadSafe ] Nuclear power in Hawaii?

Muckerheide, Jim (CDA) Jim.Muckerheide at state.ma.us
Mon Apr 2 15:35:53 CDT 2007


In another article in the Hawaii Reporter, our friend Mike Fox has
proposed that nuclear power be considered in Hawaii?

Regards, Jim Muckerheide

Why Not Nuclear Energy in Hawaii?
By Michael R. Fox Ph.D., 4/1/2007 7:23:53 PM 
Sure nuclear energy is controversial and needlessly so. Any controversy,
no matter how contrived, paralyzes the debates and forces decision
makers to avoid the controversy or avoid sound energy decisions.
Antinuclear forces have known this and have exploited it for nearly 40
years, with uncritical support of the mass media. For decision makers
and elected officials it is political suicide to have rational
discussions on nuclear energy. We had better rethink this and the
horrific price that is being paid. 
Many people do not appreciate that Hawaii burns massive amounts of oil
to provide electricity. When flying in or out of Honolulu my eyes turn
to those oil tankers at anchor just off shore from Pearl Harbor. Each
can contain tens of thousands of barrels of oil. About 2/3 will be used
to make gasoline and jet fuel. The rest will be burned for electricity
in just a couple of days. A nominal 84% of Hawaii's electricity comes
from the burning of oil and most of the remainder comes from the burning
of coal. All of this is imported from thousands of miles away. About 72%
of this comes from Indonesia, China, and elsewhere, and about 28% comes
from Alaska. These are very long lifelines for Hawaii's economy and
people to depend on. These imports also lead to electrical energy costs
of around 22 cents/kw-hr, some of the highest cost electricity in the
For the record oil provides less than 3% of the electrical production in
the lower 48 states. That imported oil will be used in 3 different
fractions. These are ground and marine transportation (23%), jet fuel
(32%), and electrical generation (26%). Thus, we can easily see that oil
is the life blood of the Islands, and this life line is very long and
very vulnerable to disruptions. 
It was the long life lines between Japan and the Middle East oil fields
in the early 70s which threatened the entire economy of that nation by
the Arab oil embargo. At the time Japan was dependent upon about 90% of
its electrical energy from imported oil, not unlike Hawaii. Japan
responded by building a nuclear energy program. Today Japan gets 30% of
its electricity from 55 operation nuclear power plants. 
France, also dependent upon imported oil for electricity at the time,
underwent its own energy epiphany. Today, France gets 78% from its 57
nuclear reactors. France, Lithuania, Belgium, and Slovakia all get more
the 50% of their electricity from nuclear energy. Obviously, many of
these nations are not crippled by environmental movements there.
Currently there are 435 nuclear reactors operating in 30 countries.
Worldwide there are 30 new nuclear power plants currently under
construction in 12 countries. 
There are a number of reasons why other nations have chosen the nuclear
option. One is that fuel requirements are drastically reduced with
nuclear power plants. Consider the differing fuel requirements of 3
different 1000 megawatt electrical plants with 3 different types of
fuel. For sake of the discussion remember that Hawaii has about 1600
Megawatts of installed electrical capacity. The following are only
estimates but they are good enough for a simple discussion of electrical
energy and fuels required. 
A 1000 Mw(e) coal plant will burn abut 10,000 tons of coals per day. A
1000 Mw(e) oil plant will burn about 44,000 barrels of oil per day. A
1000 MW(e) nuclear power plant will consume about 10 POUNDS of
Uranium-235 per day. On a pound for pound basis uranium contains more
than 2 million times the energy as is in oil and coal. Its waste volumes
are correspondingly small. This is an extremely high "energy density",
which also dramatically reduces the fuel costs for such plants. 
Long ago the US Navy learned this from Admiral Rickover which is why
many of the ships in our Navy are nuclear powered, often at anchor in
Pearl Harbor. Some of the naval reactors are designed to outlast the
ships and never need refueling in 30 years or more. Although no new
reactors have been ordered in the US for 25 years, design efforts have
never stopped for building new safer reactors. New reactor design
improvements never stopped. The innovation continued. 
One such advanced reactor design is being pursued by the tiny town (800
pop.) of Galena, Alaska. For nearly 9 months of the year Galena is
isolated from the outside world. It electrical demands are met with oil
fired generators and the oil is barged up the Yukon during a 3 months
window of ice free barging. Electricity costs are about 28 cents per
kw-hr. Galena city leaders are pursuing the use of a new reactor of a
new supersafe, small, and simple, of Japanese design. The reactor would
be designed with a 30 year core lifetime, after which the core could be
replaced. Because no fuel will be needed during those 30 years the
electrical costs will drop dramatically. Try to imagine Hawaii having
its electricity produced in this way with minimum fuel costs, instead of
the horrendous oil costs we now pay. 
Because of uranium's very high energy density, other benefits accrue. On
a kw-hr for kw-hr basis, nuclear energy wins the environmental contest
hands down. In glass form such as in France, the volume of nuclear waste
is about 2-3 cubic meters per year from each 1000 Mw(e) reactor. This is
to be compared to about 1000 tons of ash per day from a coal plant, plus
the other huge volumes of combustion gases such as CO2, SO2, NOx, etc.
Nuclear energy doesn't emit a molecule of CO2, no controlled air
pollutants such as sulfur and particulates, and it doesn't produce
ground level ozone, and no acid rain. The nuclear waste is radioactive
and is easily manageable, as the small annual volume suggests, and as
France, England, Japan, and others are demonstrating. 
And labor organizations take note: tens of thousands of high paying jobs
have been exported to these foreign nations who are not so hysterical
about nuclear technology. In fact there is a roaring economic
competition between England and France to process spent nuclear fuel
from other nations. The price of fear to the United States, including
Hawaiians, has been enormous on many levels. Hawaiian leadership should
consider the consequences of 3000 mile long life lines to Hawaii and the
horrendous prices to be paid for their disruptions. Why not reconsider
an energy source which is safe, domestic, lower cost, and
environmentally benign. Leaders of Hawaii: Consider yourselves advised. 
Michael R. Fox, Ph.D., a science and energy reporter for Hawaii Reporter
and a analysist for the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, is retired and
living in Kaneohe. He has nearly 40 years experience in the energy
field. He has also taught chemistry and energy at the University level.
His interest in the communications of science has led to several
communications awards, hundreds of speeches, and many appearances on
television and talk shows. He can be reached via email at
mailto:foxm011 at hawaii.rr.com 
HawaiiReporter.com reports the real news, and prints all editorials
submitted, even if they do not represent the viewpoint of the editors,
as long as they are written clearly. Send editorials to
mailto:Malia at HawaiiReporter.com

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