Offshore Nuclear Power Plants Can Be Effective

Panos Prevedouros, a professor of engineering at the University of Hawaii
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Panos Prevedouros, PHD, professor of Engineering at the University of Hawaii
Panos Prevedouros, PHD, professor of Engineering at the University of Hawaii

BY PANOS PREVEDOUROS PHD – The Economist: Researchers find advantages in floating nuclear power stations. You may recall that I proposed this as mayor candidate in 2010: Nuclear Power in Oahu’s Future?  I know that my proposal went nowhere, but it feels great to be four years ahead of MIT. Furthermore, my idea is more economical than theirs. There is no need to construct floating platforms.  The Navy has many large decommissioned ships that float just fine and can be refurbished at a lower cost.

Before Honolulu hits the energy wall and desperation sets in, problems with potable water may arise due to drought, sea level rise or other reasons. So another billion dollar project may be needed for Desalination, as I explain in this article based on a large desalination plant currently under construction in San Diego.
The impact of executive priorities is clear if one compares the economic trajectories of a few countries say since 1990: Greece vs. Israel, Russia vs. China, Argentina vs. Brazil, and France vs. Germany to name a few. All of them faced a number of local and regional adversities but each pair has a clear economic winner now. Priorities and selection of wise transportation, infrastructure, energy and investment options made most of the difference.
Here are two examples of infrastructure where Hawaii made major wrong choices and placed itself in the loser column.
Renewables. They are expensive and their intermittency is highly problematic.  They depend on heavy subsidies.  To deal with intermittency HECO plans to invest heavily on … batteries. (Our politicians needed wind mills with giant labels: Batteries Not Included.) See Hawaii Wants 200MW of Energy Storage for Solar, Wind Grid Challenges. This is purely throwing good money after bad.
Rail. Simply put, rail is way too much buck for the bang. For the five billion dollars of Honolulu heavy rail we could have spent:
  • One billion dollars on LNG conversion and a modest floating nuclear power plant to reduce Oahu’s dependence on oil from over 75% to 25% or less, instead of blowing tens of millions in the wind.
  • Two billion dollars on HOT lanes and other mitigations to truly reduce traffic congestion.
  • One billion dollars to redevelop ex-Navy lands and buildings at Kalaeloa to preserve the rich history of the site and relieve Oahu’s pressing homeless and low income housing problems.
  • And one billion on desalination to anticipate water shortage problems.
Join me at the 38th Annual SBH Business Conference, Tuesday, May 13, 2014, 8:00 AM to 2:00 PM, Hibiscus Ballroom, Ala Moana Hotel. Luncheon keynote speaker is entrepreneur, author, coach and motivator, Patrick Snow, who will speak on “Proven Principles for Prosperity.”
The business  program features Mike McCartney (Hawaii Tourism Authority), Tom Yamachika (Tax Foundation), Bob Sigall (Author and Educator), Mark Storfer (Hilo Hattie), Naomi Hazelton-Giambrone (Element Media), Dale Evans (Charley’s Taxi), and Peter Kay (Your Computer Minute). Contact: Sam Slom (349-5438) or SBH (396-1724). Don’t miss it!





  1. What the professor did when he was running for mayor was to repeat a commonly told idea heard around town for decades: hook a nuclear submarine onto the electric grid to generate electricity. It wasn't like he discovered a new system or anything of substance. He didn't even bother to do back-fo-the-envelop calculations to show how this would actually work, how many ships, where to anchor them around the islands for best results and what kind of infrastructure would be needed. Perhaps he can quote the folks at MIT next time, or wait until the Economist quotes them first and then tell us about it.

    • This paradigm launched civilian nuclear energy. The first nuclear reactor to produce electricity for consumption was the Shippingsport reactor, which was the old Nautilus submarine reactor.

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