“Our state of Hawaii has a constitutional amendment that bans nuclear power generation.”

That’s what mayoral candidate Kirk Caldwell said in a debate aired by Hawaii Public Radio Monday. You can listen to the debate here (Caldwell’s comment begins at minute 17:10).

But does Hawaii really have an amendment banning nuclear power?

Not quite.

Section 8, Article XI in the Hawaii Constitution says: “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.” The provision was added during the 1978 Constitutional Convention.

This is certainly a hurdle for anyone trying to bring nuclear power to the state – a large one. But a ban?


Nuclear power could theoretically have a future in Hawaii with the support of a supermajority in both houses of the Legislature.

It’s worthwhile to make the distinction between a ban and a high bar because it affects how we talk about nuclear power.