2 House bill pushes for nuclear power in Hawaii

2 House bill pushes for nuclear power in Hawaii

House bills would pave the way for a nuclear power plant in Hawaii — a prospect that appears to conflict with rights in the state constitution guaranteeing a “clean and healthy environment.”

House Bill 1516, introduced by State Rep. Corey Chun (D, Pearl City-Waipahu-Waikeli), would create a nuclear energy commission within the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism to study the potential benefits of nuclear energy in Hawaii.

It’s not a new concept in Hawaii, though the idea hasn’t caught on very well, Chun said.

“I honestly think this is the fear of nuclear power,” he said.

Chun described nuclear energy as “the only energy source” that can reduce carbon and achieve a carbon-free future, despite challenges such as nuclear waste and high upfront costs.

State Rep. Elijah Perek (R, Royal Kunia-Waipahu-Honoleuli) also introduced HB 1741, which proposes an amendment to the Hawaii Constitution to allow the construction of a nuclear power plant without prior legislative approval.

Article XI, Section 8 of the state constitution requires a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate to permit the construction of nuclear fission power plants in Hawaii.

HB 1741 would repeal Section 8 of the Constitution and allow greater access to nuclear energy, though Perrick acknowledged that the bill’s chance of passing is slim.

As of last week, the bill had been referred to two House committees: Finance and Energy and Environmental Protection.

“Some armchairs are small-minded, and they don’t think creatively that way,” Perek said. “I don’t think this bill will get a hearing.”

Peric said lowering the cost of energy in the state would be his ultimate goal.

According to both Peric and Chun, energy costs in Hawaii are much higher compared to other states. “What we need to do as legislators is introduce legislation that will lower the costs of living, including electricity,” Perek said. “Nuclear power is the way to get there.”

Article XI, Section 9 of the Hawaiian Constitution states that every person has the right to a “clean and healthy environment.”

The Sierra Club strongly opposes nuclear power as a solution to Hawaii’s energy needs, said Wayne Tanaka, director of the Sierra Club of Hawaii — an organization that works to promote climate solutions and protect Hawaii’s lands.

“We have had nuclear power plants for less than several years, and we have already experienced more than 30 failures and major disasters, including the Fukushima accident,” Tanaka said.

An earthquake that struck Japan in 2011 led to a tsunami that flooded the reactors of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. More than 22,000 people were killed, including more than 3,500 people directly linked to the nuclear plant disaster.

“I don’t think we should think about creating a similar situation for future generations by jumping to this nuclear energy solution,” Tanaka said.

Nuclear power costs two to six times more to produce than wind and solar power, Tanaka said. Simply building a nuclear plant would be “very expensive.”

“Anything other than oil would be a cheaper alternative, but developing nuclear plants would be more expensive in many ways, and the costs of dealing with something happening would be astronomical,” Tanaka said.

Tanaka said the process of building a nuclear plant includes bringing fuel and reactor materials to Hawaii.

Additional challenges include finding the right location, engineering and architecture to protect against rising sea levels, extreme weather events and natural disasters such as earthquakes and fires.

Tanaka said a disaster at a potential nuclear plant could further contaminate Oahu’s groundwater supply, which has already been contaminated by a series of fuel leaks at the Navy’s Red Hill facility.

    (Tags for translation) Editors

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