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State lawmakers reject nuclear plant

January 30, 2009
By MARK NIESSE, The Associated Press

HONOLULU - Hawaii lawmakers shot down an idea Thursday to bring nuclear power to the islands.

Nuclear power critics told legislators that Hawaii would have to import its uranium, export its nuclear waste and find a large area of land for a facility.

They also doubted the state is big enough to justify a nuclear reactor, or that it could be built at a reasonable cost.

''In an island economy with a fragile environment, why would we build a nuclear plant when we have every resource for renewable energy?'' said Kat Brady of the environmental group Life of the Land.

A joint session of the House energy and land committees unanimously voted Thursday to hold the measure, effectively killing it for this year.

Instead, a resolution will be proposed that will ask the University of Hawaii Energy Policy Forum to research the pros and cons of nuclear energy in the state.

''We need hard, factual information to make the decision,'' said Rep. Hermina Morita, D-Hanalei-Kapaa, chairwoman of the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee. ''My gut feeling tells me this may not be a good option for Hawaii because it still makes us vulnerable to outside global forces that we have no control over, like prices.''

About 90 percent of Hawaii's energy comes from foreign countries.

Nuclear power supporters testified that it's a clean, inexpensive alternative to traditional power plants.

''We need diversity here,'' said Alan Lloyd, a retired engineer who used to work for Hawaiian Electric Co. ''Coal is becoming politically incorrect. With uranium, you don't have a smokestack.''

Even though the proposal was rejected, Lloyd said the fact that a nuclear power measure got a hearing for the first time in Hawaii is a step in the right direction.

The bill would have required the state to develop a permitting process for nuclear power facilities in Hawaii.

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