The Department of Energy is awarding more than $1.6 million to the Nuclear Alternative Project in Puerto Rico.
NAP is seeking the best sites for small nuclear reactors on the Island. The first stage of the project was to determine whether small nuclear reactors would be feasible for Puerto Rico. Having determined that this is a workable option, NAP will use the new grant funding to conduct site suitability analysis.
The company has identified two possibilities, one of which is the former Roosevelt Roads Naval Station. The other is in the North, near Manati. Researchers will consider many factors, including geology and seismology, weather, population effects, noise, aesthetics, environmental impact, and security.
Why nuclear energy?
Energy costs in Puerto Rico can be twice as high as in the states. Electricity provision has also been less stable in Puerto Rico, with power outages affecting homes and businesses across the Island. Since the devastation of Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico has been working to repair and improve electrical systems with a network of microgrids.
While the plan to build microgrids across the Island relies heavily on solar power, NAP’s first stage research concluded that solar power alone will not be able to handle Puerto Rico’s anticipated demand for electric power.
Adding nuclear power to the mix will meet demand without carbon emissions. Since Puerto Rico is particularly susceptible to climate change — the ferocity of Hurricane Maria is thought to have been the result of warming trends in the ocean — it is important to focus on renewable energy.
Nuclear power is clean and cost-effective, proponents say, and would provide practical solutions to Puerto Rico’s energy challenges.
However, the territory had a nuclear reactor for three years in the 1960s, and had to decommission it because of technical difficulties. The Island didn’t have the funds to keep the Boiling Nuclear Superheater Reactor Facility up to date and safe.
It was placed on the Register of Historic Places in 2007. Some people in Puerto Rico are still skeptical of nuclear power.
NAP, a nonprofit, hopes to demonstrate that nuclear energy can be a positive option for Puerto Rico.