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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Goin' Atomic

Hawaii is “the most oil-dependent state in America,” according to the State of Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative. Hawai‘i’s ongoing initiative to replace oil with renewable sources leaves out one potent possibility—nuclear power.

According to this article at, a new type of reactor is just over the horizon, if only people would commit to pursuing it. These reactors use thorium, not uranium. Key excerpt (but go read the whole thing):

“[A] tonne of the silvery metal—named after the Norse god of thunder, who also gave us Thor’s day or Thursday—produces as much energy as 200 tonnes of uranium, or 3,500,000 tonnes of coal. A mere fistful would light London for a week. Thorium eats its own hazardous waste. It can even scavenge the plutonium left by uranium reactors, acting as an eco-cleaner. 'It’s the Big One,' said Kirk Sorensen, a former NASA rocket engineer and now chief nuclear technologist at Teledyne Brown Engineering.”

A reactor that eats its own hazardous waste and is fueled by an element so common that “miners treat it as a nuisance?” Why don’t we have these now? According to the article, the barriers have been largely institutional and political.

That’s just as true for Hawaii. Nuclear power for Hawaii came up in the recent mayoral debates (read about that here at Civil Beat).  But really, it’s a state government issue, not a city issue—we virtually banned nuclear energy in the 1978 Constitutional Convention, and no one since has gotten the necessary votes in the Legislature to overcome this anti-nuclear amendment.

For any number of reasons, states are warming to nuclear energy. Why not us?

Hat-tip Instapundit.

Posted on Tuesday, August 31, 2010 in Permalink

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