Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Will California Shut Down Its Nuclear Power?

Josh Richman at the Political Blotter reported yesterday on yet another effort to constrain energy supply in California: a proposed ballot initiative from Santa Cruz County activist Ben Davis Jr., which would shut down nuclear power plants in the state.

Specifically, the measure would require the California Energy Commission to certify the technologies employed at Diablo Canyon and San Onofre for disposal of nuclear waste and reprocessing of fuel rods. Neither plant would be allowed to produce energy until the Commission finished its findings, and the findings could be subsequently rejected by the Legislature. According to the Attorney General's summary, the proposal would likely have major negative effects on state and local finances, as it would lead to billions in new costs via electricity disruption and higher prices. It would also cost Sacramento a fortune to compensate utilities for investment losses arising from the shutdown. On the other hand, in the extremely unlikely event of a major nuclear accident, the proposal would end up saving the state a bundle in costs and lost revenues associated with site clean-up. Secretary of State Debra Bowen has given Davis approval to begin collecting petition signatures.

This isn't the first time Davis has tried to shut down nuclear power: in 1989, he drafted a successful petition to shut down a proposed plant near Sacramento. And his current project, filed on March 30, seems timed to take advantage of public anxiety arising from the nuclear disaster that followed the Sendai earthquake and tsunami in Japan. (Never mind that the Sendai quake was a once-in-100-years sort of crisis, that the forty-year-old plants withstood the damage far better than expected, and that the cost in human life is still expected to be minimal.) If we had to guess, though, we'd assume that the motives were even more nakedly political than the fear of nuclear winter. Since this is California, it's likely that crippling the competitors to solar and wind is a basic part of a strategy to promote those "renewables".


  1. One can only hope that the Fukushima Triple Nuclear Meltdown will wake up the residents of California to the potential for their very own nuclear disaster. While this article was posted in May it says “that the forty-year-old plants withstood the damage far better than expected” Really? Maybe you would like to retract that statement with the benefit of hindsight now 8 months into the triple meltdown. The article also states “and that the cost in human life is still expected to be minimal”. Have you been keeping up on the amount of radiation now contaminating 8% or more of Japan? How about the continuous contamination of the ocean? During Chernobyl the cost of human life was downplayed as well. Now 25 years later we can see the true cost to the health of humans and everything else in the environment. Californians need to support Mr. Davis and end Nuclear Power in their state.