Nuclear Power In Hawaii

John Toner
March 17, 2018

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2018


Fig. 1: The beautiful east coast of the island of Oahu. Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Nuclear power currently generates nearly 20% of electricity in the US, however, in Hawaii this is not the case. There is currently no electricity production from Nuclear power in Hawaii. [1] Since Hawaii is the most isolated land mass in the world, there has always been a concern for sustainable energy. A large amount of Hawaii's energy is imported through petroleum and coal. In the year 2016 Hawaii imported 29 million barrels of foreign crude oil. [1] With goals of reaching 100% renewable energy in 2045, every source of energy should be discussed in Hawaii's future. [1] With that being said, the future for Nuclear Energy looks grim and for many reasons, potentially nonexistent.

Why Nuclear and Hawaii Don't Mesh Well

For many reasons, Nuclear power in Hawaii seems unrealistic. Before any talks can begin, there's a large legal obstacle that stands in the way of any nuclear power in the state. Hawaii, along with Rhode Island and Vermont, require legislature approval. The Hawaii law states that: No nuclear fission power plant shall be constructed or radioactive material disposed of in the State without the prior approval by a two-thirds vote in each house of the legislature. [2] Beyond a two-thirds vote, there are other issues outside of politics that Hawaii faces.

While Nuclear energy is a clean source of energy, it might not exactly align with Hawaii's goal to utilize renewable energies. The waste that Nuclear plants produce would pose a great threat to Hawaii. With Hawaii's isolated nature, the reactor waste would have to be stored on the island. With nuclear accidents such as Cheronobyl, Three Mile Island and Fukushima there is an unease that comes with the Nuclear Power process. [3] With the risks of natural disasters, Hawaii may shy away from Nuclear power as a viable option for the future.

Another constraint that Nuclear Power faces in Hawaii is the size. A typical power plant on the island of Oahu generates 100 MW, from the EIA data, the typical Nuclear Power Plant generates 2,000 MW. Thus a typical Nuclear Power is far too large for an island like Oahu. [4] Along with too large of an output, another power plant in Hawaii could just be too large in general (see Fig. 1). Finding a proper building site for a Nuclear power plant could be difficult on in the Islands of Hawaii. These reasons and many others, present looming obstacles for Nuclear Power.


There are many difficult, if not impossible, hurdles that Nuclear Power would have to go through to contribute to electricity production in Hawaii. With Hawaii's current legislation it would take years to even receive approval. Other problems such as geography, waste and size add to the list that is preventing nuclear power in Hawaii. I don't see Nuclear Power largely contributing to Hawaii's electricity production anytime soon. Hawaii has an abundance of natural resources that they can harness for energy such as wind, solar, geothermal and the ocean. With developing technology and those natural resources Hawaii should be able to reach their goals without Nuclear Power.

© John Toner. The author warrants that the work is the author's own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] "Hawaii Energy Facts and Figures,," Hawaii State Energy Office, May 2017.

[2] "Assessment of the Nuclear Power Industry - Final Report," Navigant Consulting, Inc., June 2013.

[3] M. W. Guidry and F. T. Mackenzie, "Energy Sustainability in the Pacific Basin: Case History of the State of Hawaii and the Island of Oahu as an Example," University of Hawaii, 27 Oct 16.

[4] G. A. El-Swaify and P. D. Prevedouros, "The Next 100 MW Power Plant for Oahu,," University of Hawaii, May 2013.