Monday, November 29, 2010
Comic relief: “Hawaii can become a hub of high-tech jobs for ramped-up worldwide nuclear power demand”
by Larry Geller
When the words “Hawaii” and “hub” occur together in a sentence, I get a Google Laugh Alert. Other words often found in the same sentence are “Pacific” as in “hub of the Pacific region” or “high-tech” as in “high-tech hub of the Pacific region.”
Most often it means another amusing high-tech claim appears in our daily paper. And so it was this morning.
Today’s Star-Advertiser article Nuclear option advances energy independence (11/29/2010) triggered a Laugh Alert.
If nuclear reactors are to be designed or built anywhere, it will not be in Hawaii. And if we are sensible, they probably won’t be used here, either.
Why we should be using nuclear energy on islands surrounded by continuously available and unlimited wave energy is a question not asked in the article. Ocean thermal and wave power are continuous. Conveniently to the author’s argument, only wind and solar power were mentioned.
Wave power doesn’t leak radioactive liquids or have waste disposal problems. It has no reactors to melt down. The author omitted mentioning leaky radioactive piping and is silent on the death and destruction caused by Chernobyl.
The technologies we can work on here do not include nuclear or even wind. We do have expertise in micro-CSP technology, the use of shiny curved solar reflectors to heat tubes of liquid passing through their focal points, and that heat can easily be stored.
Should these systems move to commodity manufacturing, it won’t be in Hawaii, though. Take as an example the newspaper high-tech solar energy darling of the recent past, Hoku Scientific, the Hawaii-based company that generated its jobs in Idaho and is now majority owned by a Chinese company.
Using technology is very different from building technology. We are paying high prices for our electricity because we lag, not lead, other areas of the world in making use of available technology. As to making the equipment, generally Hawaii is not a place to manufacture. Period. The raw materials have to be brought in, then the finished goods shipped out. The market is far away.
As an illustration, when Disappeared News revealed that the first off-shore wind/wave power installation was to be installed in Hawaiian waters it was to be maintained by a Mainland firm using Chinese-made turbines (see: Company applies to place Chinese-made wind turbines offshore in Hawaii (12/5/2008) and more here). That should have deflated the concept that we can be technology leaders. We’d do well to get off the dime and become technology users first.
Next in line to power up Hawaii could be geothermal, also, as I understand it, a continuous energy source.
Nuclear is not needed here.
The challenge to Hawaii will be to unplug itself from HECO’s coal-and-oil generators in an orderly and sensible fashion. Since they operate the power grid and wield political power, that’s been hard to do.
Can't take anything the nuclear industry says seriously. Until they begin to finance the projects with private money, provide their own liability insurance and develop a safe way to dispose of the used waste material I am not interested.