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Mair backs nuclear energy

Published:Monday | July 30, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

THE Opposition spokesman for industry, commerce and energy, Gregory Mair, is urging the Government to consider nuclear as an energy source.

Mair, who was a state minister in the previous administration which three years ago rejected the suggestion when it was made by Portia Simpson Miller, said advances in nuclear technology make it a viable option.

Mair also called for coal to be utilised as an energy source.

"We cannot minimise the cost of electricity without further diversifying our energy sources," Mair said.

In his contribution to the Sectoral Debate in the House of Repre-sentatives last Wednesday, Mair said a coal/petcoke plant takes four to five years to build and if the Government acts swiftly Jamaica can have a coal plant by 2018.

"This would result in a projected average 36 per cent reduction in our electricity bills by the year 2018, this will be enhanced by a further five per cent with the reduction of technical losses by the JPSCo," Mair said.

On nuclear energy, Mair said "because technology is moving rapidly in this field, and we are now seeing the development of technology for nuclear plants which could be as small as 10 megawatt and are replaced like batteries."

"In other words, these plants in size would be no larger than the chamber we are in. All is encompassed in one unit, that once having completed its lifespan, the entire module is replaced and a new one installed," he added.


Mair said despite much scepticism towards nuclear energy, "We must, however, remain on the alert and prepared for the possible advent of a new technological wave, with improved environmental and safety standards."

He added: "Let us not make the same mistake and wait for decades before we act."

Simpson Miller, in 2009, suggested the Government consider nuclear energy as an alternative power source.

However, then Prime Minister Golding said introducing nuclear energy to Jamaica was potentially catastrophic.

"We have looked at that but we have ruled it out for a number of reasons: environmental concerns, high capital costs, long lead time (15 years) and the challenges involved in operations, maintenance, waste disposal and decommissioning.

"The siting of such a plant would also be hazardous in a country of Jamaica's size and population density," Golding said.

But energy minister Phillip Paulwell has said nuclear energy should be a part of the country's energy mix.

"Nuclear remains a part of the energy mix going forward. Indeed, it is clearly stated in the National Energy Policy. However, it seems clear from our best advice that the technology for a compact nuclear facility will not be commercialised before another 10 years," Paulwell told The Gleaner last week..