Marianas Variety Guam Edition – The Local and Regional Newspaper

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‘Clean’ nuclear power eyed

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THE Consolidated Commission on Utilities and the Guam Power Authority are investigating a new type of “generation five” nuclear power generator – one that could potentially reduce power costs for Guam ratepayers by half or more. 

The Variety has learned Dr. Jay W. Khim, CEO of Global Energy Corp. (GEC) based in Annandale, Va., made a presentation to the utilities commission, GPA officials and Navy engineers last month and will make another tomorrow afternoon. 

CCU member Eloy Hara, who says he is “spearheading” the project on behalf of GEC, told Variety:  “After the presentation that Dr. Khim gave to the CCU and the Guam power management team, and almost an hour-long discussion afterward ... we were all awed by the technology.

“And if it is for real, this technology really could be the answer to our program of One Green Guam; and also it fits right into the alternative energy that we are participating in right now.”

The company, in conjunction with the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Department of Energy, says it has developed a “hybrid fusion-fast-fission” reactor called GeNiE which, according to GEC, “is compatible with the decades-long development of very high temperature, helium cooled reactors.” 

The reactors being built now, including the two licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission last week for the State of Georgia – the first in the U.S. in more than 30 years – are based on generation three technology.

Generation five

“We’re generation five,” Dr. Khim told the Variety during an exclusive interview, “and first of all this is a brand new concept.”  He said safety is the first consideration, and that cannot be ensured by building higher walls around reactors, as Japan saw last year with Fukushima. 

“You have to change the basic science of nuclear power,” Khim explained. “We’ve been working with the U.S. Navy for about 22 years and the basic science phase is now over. Now we’re going into commercial development, which the Navy is not going to do.”  But Khim says the science has been repeatedly duplicated by the Navy, and has been proven, recognized and published.

Officials of the Navy on Guam, including Capt. John V. Heckmann Jr., CO of Naval Facilities and a professional engineer, attended the GEC briefing.

The GEC board of directors, Khim says, includes some well-known Washington D.C. Players, including former Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci, former Congressman and Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta, and former U.S. Congressman Tom Davis, among others.

“The biggest problem I see on Guam,” Dr. Khim told Variety, “is that power is too costly, way above average, and way too dependent on fossil fuel. Those costs have nowhere to go but up.”  He says the clean nuclear technology offered by GEC is the only solution for a place like Guam. 

According to Dr. Khim, the GeNiE reactor burns natural uranium which doesn’t require enrichment. It creates no nuclear waste, he says, thus eliminating the need for nuclear waste storage – a major problem wherever nuclear generation using old technology is used.  In fact, the reactor can use spent fuel from current plants as a fuel source, although there is no plan to use such fuel for the Guam reactor, he points out. Since there is no nuclear chain reaction involved, no nuclear meltdown is possible and there is also no weapons proliferation risk. It is clean nuclear technology, Dr. Khim contends.

“The key to this technology,” Khim explains, “is that the GeNiE reactor actually burns uranium 238 in a hybrid fusion-fission process that is clean, utterly safe, and secure. The reactor is cooled by helium gas – rather than water – which cannot become radioactive. There is no need for a separate heat exchanger or secondary loop, which greatly simplifies the reactor, increasing safety and reducing costs.”

Global Energy Corp. is proposing to build a 50-megawatt plant as a pilot project on Guam, on a build, operate and transfer basis for which GEC would obtain its own financing. Guam ratepayers would pay only for the electric power generated. Khim says he will finance the estimated $250 million plant himself. “No initial money for Guam at all,” Khim assured. “I’ll pay all the money; I’ll run it; and give Guam cheap electricity.” He says once his company and the CCU enter into a memorandum of understanding, other issues, such as the location of the reactor, will be explored. 

“Our plan is to fuel the generator only once, and the fuel would last for 50 years,” Khim said. The fuel will be natural, unenriched uranium ore, which is mined in various countries including the U.S. and Australia.

“This concept is simple,” Khim added. “We’re tsunami-proof, earthquake-proof, and typhoon-proof. There is no chance of a major catastrophe because there can be no meltdown. This is clean, green nuclear energy. This is the future ... where we are going. This is a dream come true for all humankind.”

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