Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Suddenly, Nuke Power Talk Is Everywhere -- from the Presidential Campaign to Downtown Honolulu

The suitcases are back in the closet, and we have to be content with our memories of cool breezes and fog along the California Coast. On average, it’s about 20 degrees hotter on any given day in Honolulu than Monterey, and if it weren’t for the strong trades this week, our homecoming would have been exceptionally uncomfortable. 

We heard the early edition of NPR’s “All Things Considered” yesterday on the way to a meeting in downtown Honolulu and listened somewhat dismissively to a report on Senator McCain’s strong support of nuclear energy. It sounded like campaign rhetoric, delivered as it was at a Michigan nuclear power plant, with little relevance to Hawaii.

But not 10 minutes later, right there on Alakea Street, we ran into a Hawaii state senator (not of McCain’s party) whose first words practically were to enthusiastically tout nuke power for Hawaii! We couldn’t believe it and decided then and there to make this issue the subject of our first post-vacation post to Hawaii Energy Options.

The Most Expensive Option

We only had time to read Freedom from Mideast Oil while flying to and from California, and the chapter we just finished before arriving home was titled “Nuclear Power: A Mistake in Search of a Mission.” Citing numerous detailed reasons, the authors conclude: “The upside to nuclear power is minimal; the downside is potentially disastrous.” (page 189)  Another bomb:

“After decades of subsidies, nuclear power still remains the most expensive and non-competitive way of generating electricity…. The real challenge facing nuclear power becomes clear when ‘life cycle’ production costs are compared, including construction, operations, maintenance, fuel, decommissioning, and waste storage.” (page 170)

We immediately mentioned this book to the senator, and he claimed to have read it and to have met at least one of its authors – which leads us to wonder what possible application he sees for nuclear power in Hawaii. Politically, it’s a non-starter, but beyond the near impossibility that it could be introduced here, nuclear energy makes no sense in these islands.

So while we tend to be apolitical here at Hawaii Energy Options, it's pretty obvious all this rhetoric about off-shore drilling and nuclear power is simply pandering during election season.  Voters would do well to remind our would-be leaders that both technologies are fraught with too many negatives to number.  Tell them this nation needs a massive development project for renewable energy technologies, not more of the same polluting and destructive options that will dump a host of problems on our grandchildren's doorsteps.