By: EDWARD SIFUENTES – Staff Writer
A bill introduced earlier this week by Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine, would allow the building of a new nuclear reactor at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.
Part of the power produced by a third reactor at the nuclear plant would be used to run a desalination plant to turn seawater into drinking water, DeVore said. The bill would lift a decades-old ban on nuclear facilities to build the reactor at San Onofre.
If history is an indicator, the bill is unlikely to pass. A similar measure failed to make it out of committee earlier this year. But DeVore said it’s time to talk about giving nuclear power another chance.
“What I’m trying to do is offer a real solution, even if the leaders in the Legislature don’t want to,” he said. “Eventually, the people of California are going to take note.”
DeVore, who has championed efforts to lift the statewide moratorium, said the bill would help fix the state’s power and water crunch.
“A new reactor could produce about 1,200 megawatts of power,” he said. “My bill would require that 240 megawatts of that power to be designated for seawater desalination. This could provide about two-thirds of San Diego County’s fresh-water needs.”
Anti-nuclear groups, including the San Luis Obispo-based Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility, oppose DeVore’s bill, saying it will increase nuclear waste.
“Until we find a solution to radioactive waste, it’s at best premature,” said Rochelle Becker, executive director for the alliance.
Becker said it would also be expensive and take years to build new nuclear reactors.
In 1976, the state banned building more nuclear plants pending a permanent place to store used nuclear waste. Only two plants are in operation in California: San Onofre near the San Diego County/Orange County line and Diablo Canyon near San Luis Obispo.
Opponents of nuclear power plants say they are not safe, in part because they store radioactive waste.
The federal government is making plans to store the nation’s growing pile of highly radioactive waste in an underground vault deep beneath Yucca Mountain in Nevada, but that state’s leadership and anti-nuclear groups have opposed the plan.
For now, spent nuclear fuel is stored in deep pools and heavy concrete bunkers at both of California’s plant sites.
DeVore said waste can be reduced by recycling spent fuel. He said nuclear power is a way of generating more electricity without producing more carbon dioxide, which scientists link to global warming.
Earlier this year, he introduced another bill, Assembly Bill 719, to lift the statewide moratorium, but the bill was defeated in committee.
The new bill, Assembly Bill Second Extraordinary Session 5, or ABX2 5, was introduced during the Legislature’s special session on water.
DeVore said he sees signs that the tide is turning on nuclear power.
Earlier this year, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said in a House Science and Technology hearing that “technology has changed” and that she “has a different view on nuclear than (she) did 20 years ago.”
A spokesman for Assemblyman Martin Garrick, R-Carlsbad, said the lawmaker supports lifting the moratorium.
“He understands the issue, and I believe he supports Mr. DeVore’s efforts,” said Mike Zimmerman, Garrick’s chief of staff.
Zimmerman said Garrick has not read the new bill to build a reactor at San Onofre and has not decided whether to support it.
Officials at San Diego Gas & Electric Co., which is part owner of the nuclear plant at San Onofre, did not make someone available for comment.
Contact staff writer Edward Sifuentes at (760) 740-3511 or firstname.lastname@example.org.