Calif. lawmaker cancels nuclear power ballot move

Calif. lawmaker cancels nuclear power ballot move | News | Reuters

Tue Nov 20, 2007 4:37pm EST
By Bernie Woodall

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – California Assemblyman Chuck DeVore on Tuesday vowed to continue his efforts to repeal a state law banning new nuclear power plants, one day after he canceled an effort to gather signatures to put the question to state voters in mid-2008.

DeVore said he will introduce a bill in January allowing nuclear power, which will be modified from a bill killed by legislative committee this year. If that measure fails again in 2008, he will resurrect the ballot initiative attempt.

DeVore, a Republican from Irvine County, claims opponents of nuclear power are ignoring the fact that it does not emit greenhouse gases that cause global warming and that the state won’t meet its ambitious renewable power generation goals and greenhouse gas emission reductions without it.

While DeVore says the technology is safe and is slowly growing in popularity in California, his opponents, including Dan Hirsch, president of the Committee to Bridge the Gap, disagree.

“Nuclear power is the most dangerous technology on earth, with risks of meltdowns, terrorist attack, proliferation, and leaking long-lived wastes.” said Hirsch. “This humiliating reversal for a proposed initiative to revive it in California is a great victory for common sense. Now the state can focus on safe and sensible renewable solutions to global warming.”

DeVore said the ballot initiative did not get enough support this year but will get more as time goes by. The pulled initiative would have set a vote in June 2008 to reverse a 1976 California law that banned construction of new nuclear power plants until “there exists a demonstrated technology for the permanent disposal of spent fuel,” according to the California Energy Commission.

A proposed Yucca Mountain national repository in Nevada for nuclear waste is becoming less likely as opposition grows, much of it in Nevada where politicians have lined up against it. Nuclear power builders say technology is being developed to allow safe storage of nuclear waste on plant sites, but that concept is hotly contested by opponents and it is unknown if the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission will allow it.

California has four existing nuclear reactors at two plants that received state approval before the 1976 ban.

U.S. nuclear power builders say by the end of 2009 they will file for 32 new nuclear power reactors, most of them on existing plant sites in the U.S. Southeast and Texas.

Bill Magavern of the Sierra Club in San Francisco said, “California has much cheaper, safer and quicker solutions to our electricity needs. We should be moving forward with 21st century clean energy technologies instead of pouring more money down the nuclear rat hole.”

Wall Street investors have yet to commit to financing nuclear reactor construction. A builder of a proposed new plant in Maryland estimated costs of up to $5 billion, which it said may rise if construction costs continue to soar.

DeVore says he will eventually win his battle to allow new plants and that opposition to the plants will erode, even if it takes years.

“I have physics and economics on my side,” DeVore said.

(Reporting by Bernie Woodall; editing by Jim Marshall)

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