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Let’s examine the nuclear-energy option

I have been following with great interest the various arguments on energy sources: liquefied natural gas (LNG), clean coal, wind, solar and other options. I notice that not much discussion has been centred on nuclear energy.

Wind and solar energy are quite possible many places in Jamaica. But these can only be sustainable in relatively small amounts compared to Jamaican requirements, which at this time is close to 1,000 megawatts, or one gigawatt (1,000mw=1gw). This does not take into consideration any expansion in industry.

We were disappointed when the Trinidadians had reneged on their promise to deliver supplies of liqified natural gas that had been intended for expansion of alumina production. This was not the only possible areas of growth we had envisaged. There is one area that we need to look at and that is development of our bauxite-alumina sector. Why not take it one step further: To the production of aluminium metal from alumina? This will enhance our industrial growth if we had an indigenous source of the metal to produce finished aluminium products, and the mind boggles at the tremendous possibilities thereafter. The problem that this last suggestion entails is the need for adequate and competitive sources of energy.

Looking at the options

Twenty years ago, we were considering nuclear power. At that time, our requirements were less than 500mw, and the size of a nuclear facility was the order of 2gw, well beyond our ability to justify. Now is the time to consider seriously the possibility of a 700mw to 1.5gw nuclear plant to supplement our existing capabilities, and to provide for future expansion. Let us look at the options:

1The latest findings on energy indicate that nuclear energy is a safe and sufficient energy source that should be used more. Many countries in the world including developing countries in Africa and South America are using and considering nuclear energy. Most of Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, are already in the progress of building new plants. The amount of carbon emissions will be reduced, allowing us to apply for carbon credits; the cost of energy will continue to decrease with the increasing inputs of reactor-management services, and the fear of fuel shortages, which we currently suffer, will diminish.

With new technology now available, strict safety proce-dures, and disaster prevention, nuclear energy is economical and safe. Studies have shown that with further research and development worldwide, the cost of nuclear will further decrease. This will make electricity bills lower for most Jamaicans, an option that we need, and which will not occur with the use of fossil fuels.

Politicians may not be happy with this long-term investment, and the people of Jamaica should continue to impress on our leaders not to be short-term in their thinking, and push for more effort to implement nuclear-energy solutions.

The development of skills and expertise will stimulate the growth of scientific training and knowledge, giving impetus to our academic institutions to strive for the growth of improved technical education and, in doing so, create employment.

5Not to further mention that an aluminium industry will create the possibility for a plethora of aluminium-manufactured products; for domestic and export, considering that we shall be moving from bauxite to alumina, and from aluminium to aluminium product. Not to detract from plastic manufacture, but in recent times these have not shown themselves to be biodegradable nor easily recycled. This is the stimulant the manufacturing sector needs to grow: Low-energy cost and improved productive skills, plus another raw material made available.

The cost of nuclear plants of 1.0gw of energy is in the region of US$4 billion, or J$340 billion, but long-range financing, country-to-country trade agreements, especially involving new aluminium pro-duction, would pay back in 20 years, within the lifespan of the nuclear plant’s existence.

This project is not easy, and will take the finest scientific minds in our community to tackle the various implications: where, how long and how much are all questions that need to be resolved. The time for reckoning is now, rather than enter any long-range commitment for imported so-called clean coal (for coal is never clean or healthy, and is costly to keep free of greenhouse-gas emissions), or imported gas from countries that have a reputation to renege.

I strongly suggest that a task force be formed to investigate the nuclear energy option.

Source: Jamaica Gleaner


Ramesh K. Sujanani, Contributor

Category/ies:Jamaica Articles, Nuclear Energy, Nuclear Tech.
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