Home Business Puerto Rico to go nuclear after Hurricane Fiona

Puerto Rico to go nuclear after Hurricane Fiona

by SuperiorInvest

Hurricane Fiona dealt Puerto Rico another punishing blow this week. Friday morning, more than 900,000 Puerto Ricans he had no electricity and hundreds of thousands he had no water.

While the immediate task is to repair the island’s roads, restore lights and running water, this hurricane provides an opportunity for politicians in Puerto Rico and Washington DC to start thinking long term about the territory’s tattered power grid. It’s time for Puerto Rico to go nuclear.

Nuclear power makes sense for Puerto Rico because the island’s infrastructure is old and its power plants rely heavily on oil to generate electricity. This heavy dependence on oil means that Puertoriqueños pay some of the highest electricity prices in the United States. A recent analysis found that electricity rates on the island have almost doubled since 2020 and customers are now paying 33.4 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity. By comparison, the average price of residential electricity in the US last year was 13.7 cents per kilowatt hour.

These high prices are a punishment for residents of Puerto Rico, an unincorporated territory of the United States where the median household income is about $21,000 a year. This is much less than the US average about $65,000 a year. In addition, according to the Census Bureau, about 40 percent of the island’s population lives in poverty. The result: the people of Puerto Rico pay about 8% of their income for electricitywhich is more than three times the US average.

Second, Puerto Rico needs a more resilient electrical system. It needs power systems that won’t be damaged by strong winds and rain. Nuclear power plants can help ensure this resilience. Hurricane Fiona is the third hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in the past five years. In 2017, it was an island ravaged by Hurricane Irma and then, days later, by Hurricane Maria. While visiting the island at the beginning of 2018, together with the film crew to film our documentary, Juice: How Electricity Explains the WorldI saw the enormous damage those storms caused. Indeed, while I was there, there was a power outage on the entire island that lasted for about eight hours.

These storms damaged the island’s electricity distribution system, and the grid never fully recovered. Last year, Wayne Stensby, president of LUMA Energy, which manages the island’s grid, told US lawmakers that Puerto Rico’s grid “is probably the worst in the US”

Some climate activists say Puerto Rico should rely on solar and wind power to power its grid. And in 2019, Puerto Rico passed a law requiring 40 percent Its electricity will come from renewable sources by 2025 and 60 percent by 2040. But Hurricane Fiona shows once again that wind and solar are not resilient enough to withstand the ravages of hurricanes. Indeed, when I was in Puerto Rico, I saw solar panels that were blown off their mounts by the intense winds from Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Wind turbines are not designed to handle hurricane force winds.

Given the high cost of relying on oil plants and the fragility of wind and solar projects, nuclear power is the logical way forward for Puerto Rico, says Jesus Nuñez, CEO and co-founder of the nonprofit Nuclear Alternative Project. .

Nuñez, a native of Puerto Rico, says the island needs “dense and resilient” forms of energy generation. Nuclear reactors, and especially small modular reactors, would be a good fit for the island because they are small in size, will reduce Puerto Rico’s need for imported hydrocarbons, and will be able to provide relatively cheap energy. Last year, Nuclear Alternatives Project received a $1.6 million grant from the Department of Energy to study Puerto Rico’s best sites for nuclear power plants. Unfortunately, according to Nuñez, the DOE did not give his group approval to begin the study.

To be sure, Puerto Rico’s grid faces challenges that go beyond its power plants. The island’s electrical system has been crippled by years of mismanagement, patronage and allegations of corruption. The island will need more resilient transmission and distribution systems. During a phone interview on Wednesday, Nuñez told me that the grid on the island “is so weak that any bad weather can cause a power outage.” Nuñez acknowledged that putting new generation nuclear reactors into operation in Puerto Rico is a “long-term project. It’s not a one-year contract.” But he said surveys conducted by his group found that more than 90 percent of Puerto Ricans are open to the idea of ​​nuclear power.

It will take time to get the financial and political support of politicians in Puerto Rico and Washington to make the island a nuclear facility. It won’t be easy. Building new nuclear reactors will not be cheap. But residents of Puerto Rico are US citizens. They don’t live in a foreign country. They deserve better. They are Americans living on American soil. They deserve to have an electrical system that is durable, reliable and affordable. They deserve to have a power grid that can withstand hurricanes.

The way forward for Puerto Rico is to embrace nuclear power.

Source Link

Related Posts

%d bloggers like this: