nitiative would lift nuclear plant moratorium in California
But the state legislatorâ€™s proposal would also prevent putting more reactors in Diablo Canyon
By David Sneed
Should California lift the moratorium on new nuclear plants?
Yes, it’s a great source of power. Yes, as long as Diablo Canyon is not expanded. No – no new nuclear plants, ever I don’t know
Your vote has been counted, thank you for voting.
A state assemblyman from Orange County has proposed an initiative for the June 2008 ballot that would lift the stateâ€™s moratorium on new nuclear power plants.
The measure would remove the main obstacle to additional nuclear power in the state, but it contains a provision that could eliminate Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant as a site for more reactors.
The initiative by Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine, specifically prohibits locating new reactors in earthquake-prone areas. Nuclear power opponents have cited the Central Coastâ€™s high seismic activity as one of their main concerns.
DeVore submitted the ballot initiative to Attorney General Jerry Brown last week for him to analyze, assign a ballot title and write a summary, which is the first step in including it in the June election.
Once approved, it must receive at least 400,000 signatures to qualify. But DeVore is seeking a buffer in case some are invalidated.
â€œI think if we had 700,000 signatures or so that would be enough for a margin of error,â€ DeVore said.
DeVore said he is interested in nuclear power in order to reduce carbon emissions and reduce the nationâ€™s reliance on imported oil.
Pacific Gas and Electric Co. officials will not comment on the initiative until Brown has completed his analysis, said Pete Resler, Diablo Canyon spokesman. The analysis is due in 60 days.
The measure would repeal a 1976 state law that prohibits the construction of new nuclear reactors until a permanent storage facility is found for the stateâ€™s highly radioactive used reactor fuel.
PG&E is building a dry cask storage facility to store Diablo Canyonâ€™s used reactor fuel until a permanent national repository opens at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. Opening of that facility is at least a decade away, though, and opposition from Nevada and its lawmakers has cast doubt on whether it will open at all.
DeVore introduced a bill in the Legislature last year that would have repealed the nuclear moratorium, but it received a hostile reception in the Assembly and was voted down in committee.
That prompted him to use the initiative process.
â€œI came to the conclusion that the Legislature doesnâ€™t want an honest discussion about nuclear power,â€ he said. â€œIâ€™m confident we can embark on a vigorous debate about this.â€
Antinuclear groups have been quick to criticize the initiative, noting that a new reactor is unlikely to be built in DeVoreâ€™s Orange County district.
â€œThis is a highly irresponsible action by a legislator who is not asking his constituents to take on the risks and the costs of a new reactor,â€ said Rochelle Becker, executive director of the San Luis Obispo- based Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility.
In addition to earthquake concerns, DeVoreâ€™s initiative attempts to deal with the impacts of the once-through cooling systems used by coastal nuclear plants.
Diablo Canyonâ€™s cooling system uses billions of gallons of ocean water daily to condense the steam that has passed through the turbines, killing larvae and altering the ecosystem of the discharge cove.
Special areas protected
DeVoreâ€™s initiative would prohibit new nuclear plants from being built within five miles of any of the stateâ€™s 34 coastal Areas of Special Biological Significance or on a navigable river.
No such biologically significant area is located in San Luis Obispo County. The closest are in Big Sur and the Channel Islands.
Given these restrictions, the initiative would prevent new reactors from being built in large areas of the state, De- Vore said. Inland areas such as Fresno and Victorville are the most likely locations for a new plant, he said.
A group of Fresno entrepreneurs, called the Fresno Nuclear Energy Group LLC, has proposed building a plant and is advocating repeal of the stateâ€™s nuclear moratorium.
Although Fresno is in PG&Eâ€™s service area, the utility is not involved in the venture, Resler said.
However, Jack Keenan, PG&Eâ€™s chief nuclear officer, recently announced that the utility is interested in more nuclear energy.
Californiaâ€™s two nuclear power plants produce about 14 percent of the stateâ€™s electricity.
Nationwide, there is renewed interest in nuclear power, in part because it doesnâ€™t directly emit greenhouse gases.
The state has passed legislation that requires reducing greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2020.
â€œIâ€™m thinking that nuclear power can be part of the solution,â€ DeVore said.