Let’s build a nuke in our back yard

Let’s build a nuke in our back yard

Bill Walker

Enviroblog = Environmental Working Grouop

postcard_final.jpgYou’ve heard of economically depressed towns lobbying to be the site of a new prison. But who wants a nuclear reactor in the neighborhood?

Fresno does, or at least a group of local investors called the Fresno Nuclear Energy Group LLC do. The group has signed an agreement in principle with a power plant developer to build a $4 billion, 1,600-megawatt nuclear plant in the San Joaquin Valley city best known as the Raisin Capital of the World (a title hotly disputed by nearby Selma, where the raisin-packing plants are).

Despite being the nation’s top agricultural county (or perhaps because of it) Fresno suffers from high unemployment. So the Energy Group thinks a nuclear power plant would be a good source of jobs.

Reactor meltdowns? Radioactive waste? Multibillion-dollar construction cost overruns? Not a problem, according to the corporate propaganda campaign to reposition nuclear power as a safe, clean and cheap answer to global warming.
The Energy Group recently brought to Fresno Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace who long ago went over to the Dark Side. He told an audience of 200: “Nuclear energy is the only nongreenhouse gas-emitting energy source that can effectively replace fossil fuels and satisfy global demand.”

(Disclosure: I am part of a group of former Greenpeace employees active in debunking Moore’s flackery for the nuclear, chemical, pesticide and logging industries.)

He’s way wrong. Nuclear plants remain staggeringly expensive to build and operate, and that’s money that would produce far more energy and eliminate far more global warming pollution if invested in solar and wind power and conservation. A stampede to build more nuclear power plants would be disastrous for efforts to slow global warming because it would take away resources desperately needed for ideas that will actually work.

There’s also the fact that since 1976 California has banned new nukes unless and until the federal government comes up with a safe way to dispose of the waste, and we’re no closer to that than we were 30 years ago. Ever hear of Yucca Mountain, Patrick?

That hasn’t stopped Assemblymember Chuck DeVore of Orange County, who has introduced a bill that would lift the ban on new reactors. Not long ago, advocating new reactors in California was the political equivalent of attacking motherhood, but the latest polls show that the state’s voters are now split on the notion.

The Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility of San Luis Obispo, in the shadow of PG&E’s aging Diablo Canyon reactor, is fighting DeVore’s bill. They’re also trying to extend the ban on new reactors to stop relicensing of Diablo Canyon and Southern California Edison’s San Onofre reactor. They could use your help.


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