New advances in technology could make the nuclear option a viable alternative for the Cayman Islands’ future energy needs, students at the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math conference heard.
“There is certainly a lot of active development going on to get small reactors in the market.”
Jeffrey Hausaman, a Caymanian-American who works as a reactor engineer for nuclear power plants in Georgia, in the United States, said nuclear could potentially provide a stable source of low-cost energy to the islands.
He said innovation in the development of smaller reactors is beginning to make nuclear power an affordable option for remote communities, including small islands.
According to media reports, Singapore is considering using small, floating reactors deployed at sea to help meet the island’s energy needs. Russia is in mid-production on floating nuclear power stations to provide power in remote Arctic regions, Mr. Hausaman said.
As costs for the technology begin to come down, he believes such options could be considered in Cayman and other small islands, though he acknowledges there would likely be safety and security concerns.
He told the Cayman Compass, “There are always those concerns. One thing I would like to do is to start a conversation. Nuclear technology is very specialist technology. Because a lot of people don’t understand it, they automatically have a negative reaction to it. Once you explain it to people, you can start to have a conversation.
“To me, it is like the airplane industry. We share the fact that we take a very hazardous exercise and make it routine, make it safe.”
Mr. Hausaman, who went to John Gray High School and is the nephew of Collector of Customs Charles Clifford, emphasized he was floating the idea to stimulate interest and prompt debate rather than to personally advocate for nuclear in Cayman. He explained the principles of nuclear energy to hundreds of high school students at the STEM conference at UCCI last week.
Despite high-profile disasters, including at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan after the Tsunami in 2011, he said the technology is becoming safer and more accessible. He said France now derives three-quarters of its power from nuclear, and the quest to cut carbon emissions is causing more countries to re-think the nuclear option.
Smaller reactors and other new technological breakthroughs could make small modular reactors an option for small island nations, he said.
Costs are currently high, but lack the volatility of technologies dependent on fossil fuel.
The Russian floating power stations cost $US232 million, loaded with 12 years’ worth of nuclear fuel. The Caribbean Utilities Company just paid $85 million for new diesel generators, before fuel costs, he noted in comparison.
“I think offshore is the most interesting thing for islands,” he said. “Singapore is currently considering it. There is certainly a lot of active development going on to get small reactors in the market.”