Isles should tap more nuclear juice
HERE'S an idea for when that brand new nuclear submarine USS Hawaii ties up at Pearl Harbor: Run a big old extension cord to it and provide power to all of the island's homes and businesses.
Honolulu needs a new source of electricity and Hawaiian Electric just isn't doing the job. After just a few days of hot, summer-like weather, Hawaiian Electric was scrambling to deal with islandwide blackouts. It's just going to get worse. And the answer isn't going to be to keep building electricity plants powered by increasingly expensive oil.
It's really insane when you think that most of our electricity comes from oil. Oil we have to bring here in big boats. Then burn it up and put all that burned oil stuff into the air, heating up the globe and causing ice shelves to melt and fall into the ocean in the Arctic and scare the bejesus out of the polar bears.
The H-Power garbage-to-energy plant was a great idea, but it's getting old. Pretty soon it will just have the ability to burn tissue paper and cotton balls and there isn't a lot of support to build a new one. Wind energy has been tried on Oahu but didn't catch on. The amount of energy produced by wind turbines would hardly run a model railroad and the big windmills scattered all over the hills disturbed the feng shui of the North Shore.
SO THE ANSWER to our long-term energy needs is nuclear power. It's clean, it's green, it creates no greenhouse gasses and it never runs out. I doubt the Navy actually would let us tap into the nuclear power plants onboard the submarines that call Hawaii home, including the $2.6 billion USS Hawaii which we helped pay for. Maybe we could buy a couple of the older nuclear subs from the military to use for civilian power production. That way we wouldn't have to go through all the hassle of building a nuclear plant.
The main reason no nuclear plants are under construction in the United States is because of a bunch of science-challenged Luddites who think nuclear power will destroy civilization as we know it. They point to the accident at Three Mile Island as proof that nuclear power is bad juju. Are you telling me we are going to base our future energy needs on a minor accident 27 years ago? The biggest technological advance of 1979 was the lava lamp, for godsakes. Are we to look at that year for technological guidance? A year when there were no cell phones, iPods, plasma TVs, hand-held GPS devices, CDs, DVDs, cable channels, the Internet, digital cameras, Jack LaLanne juicers or George Foreman grills? Are you kidding me? With that kind of reasoning we are lucky to have fire, considering Moonga burned himself while trying to barbecue a woolly mammoth in the year zog.
Hawaii needs to go to nuclear power, even though it would cause several dozen barely ambulatory environmental radicals to don their tie-dyed T-shirts and hemp bell bottoms, shuffle out of their old folks homes and take to the streets.
But it's hard to protest nuclear power in Hawaii when the state already houses more nuclear power than most of the developed world. It's not rubber bands propelling those 16 Pearl-based subs or big gray aircraft carriers that routinely visit. (The military won't confirm or deny that there also is a huge arsenal of nuclear weapons in Hawaii, but, trust me, we've got enough nukes to make an Iranian mullah wet his nightgown in envy.)
SO IF THE MILITARY is already using nuclear power in Hawaii, why don't the civilians? We could cut our energy costs and stop importing all that expensive oil. There would be no pollution. There would be more than enough energy not only to run homes and business, but also buses, hybrid cars and an extensive electric light-rail system.
There is the matter of safety, but -- guess what -- the technology there has come a long way since Jane Fonda wrung her hands and whimpered through "The China Syndrome." There hasn't been one nuclear accident in our Navy. And 31 states currently are quietly using nuclear power to create electricity without melting great holes through the center of the Earth.
Honolulu is like an old merchant ship chugging away on oil when we should be using the USS Hawaii as the model for our future power needs. We should be a sleek, modern, self-powered state, free from the bullies of OPEC and the whims of psychopathic oil oligarchies. What's it going to be: global warming or microwave popcorn?
, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists' 2004 First Place Award winner for humor writing, appears Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org