By Dana Williams
A bill that would ban nuclear power plants on Guam was introduced in the legislature this week, following a hearing on a proposed missile defense system where the possibility of microreactors was discussed.
Bill 151-37, introduced Tuesday by Sen. Sabina Flores Perez, Speaker Therese M. Terlaje and Sen. Chris Barnett, prohibits the production and use of nuclear fuel on the island.
“No nuclear fission power plant, small modular reactors or nuclear microreactors shall be constructed, imported or used, and no radioactive material shall be disposed of on Guam,” the bill states.
The Senate Armed Services Committee report produced as part of the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act called for a briefing no later than March 24, 2024, on the potential of using microreactors to supplement the power supply on Guam.
The report notes the Defense Department “plans to introduce a significant number of additional military resources in Guam over the next decade.”
It calls for the Secretary of Defense to “evaluate the feasibility of using modular microreactors to provide electricity for U.S. forces and facilities in Guam as a means of reducing the additional demands in Guam’s civilian infrastructure,” and to “assess the potential for directly supplementing Guam’s civilian power generation capacity through the use of modular microreactors.”
The island’s electrical system, operated by Guam Power Authority, serves both the civilian community and military bases.
During a legislative town hall meeting on the missile defense plan Monday night, Terlaje read a letter from Joint Region Marianas Commander Rear Adm. Gregory C. Huffman, who stated that the missile project “is not considering nuclear microreactors as a power source.”
However, people testifying at the hearing spoke out against the missile defense system and microreactors.
Former Del. Robert Underwood, chairman of the Pacific Center for Island Security, testified that the community should have been consulted before microreactors were considered for the island.
“Microreactors should not be a one-way conversation,” he said. “Placement of microreactors in Guam should only come after community conversation that weighs the risks, and high standards for the basic regulatory and safety environment in which they might operate.”
Guam was mentioned in a 2018 Army report as a potential site for a mobile microreactor, which would generate 1-5 megawatts of electricity.
As Pacific Island Times reported earlier this month, researcher Kyle D. Haak studied possible microreactor sites for a doctoral dissertation at Pardee Rand Graduate School and found that “Alaska and Guam are the only states without restrictions on new nuclear construction and are places where DoD locations have significantly higher costs of electricity.”
During the meeting Monday night, Monaeka Flores of the group Prutehi Litekyan: Save Ritidian, concluded her testimony by asking lawmakers “to please look at any possible legislation to limit nuclear power generation for the island, to prohibit and restrict that for the future of Guam.”
The bill introduced Tuesday, the “Nuclear Energy Prohibition Act of 2023,” states that the construction, importation and operation of nuclear reactors on Guam “dramatically increases the vulnerability of our island in the case of natural disasters or wartime calamity.”
The bill does not address nuclear-powered Navy vessels.