A Time for Action on Nuclear Power!

When it comes to nuclear power, California has a serious problem on its hands.

California is home to two coastal nuclear power plants, both near active fault lines: San Onofre south of Los Angeles and Diablo Canyon near San Luis Obispo. In the wake of the nuclear disaster unfolding in Japan, policy makers around the world are re-evaluating nuclear power with forced shut-downs, safety inspections and in some cases plans to permanently shift away from nuclear power and toward renewable energy. [1] It is time for California to take action as well.

Join us in asking Gov. Jerry Brown to take action on nuclear power.

When it comes to nuclear power, California faces greater risks than most. Consider these facts:

  • Both nuclear plants are located dangerously close to fault lines. In fact, a new fault line less than a mile from Diablo Canyon was discovered four years ago. The California Coastal Commission has said about San Onofre, “there is credible reason to believe that the design basis earthquake approved by U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) at the time of the licensing of SONGS 2 and 3 … may underestimate the seismic risk at the site.” [2]
  • Eight million people — one quarter of California’s population — live within 50 miles of California’s nuclear power plants. [3] The American government has told its citizens in Japan to evacuate this distance from the stricken Fukushima reactors.
  • A Japan-like nuclear disaster could contaminate California’s coastal land and water with radioactivity, wreaking havoc on our fishing and tourism industry. [4]
  • Both plants are nearly 30 years old, yet are seeking an extension to their licenses to operate beyond 2040. In the case of Diablo Canyon, PG&E is seeking this license extension without first doing a seismic study. [5] According to 2007 Working Group on Earthquake Probabilities, California faces a 99.7 percent chance of a magnitude of 6.7 or larger earthquake during the next 30 years. [6]

It’s possible that these plants could operate for another 30 or more years without a major disaster. Yet as Japan’s experience shows us, Mother Nature is more powerful than anything we can design. In our view, California should adopt an action plan to retire our aging nuclear plants and replace their energy with clean, safe alternatives like solar, wind and geothermal power.

Please join 5D SPECTRUM in asking Gov. Brown to lay out a plan of action to responsibly phase out nuclear power and protect the health and safety of Californians and our environment. 

We’re asking the governor to include the following steps in his plan:

  • Call for a responsible phase out of San Onofre and Diablo Canyon and order the PUC and CEC to work jointly on a study of how to transition off the 15% electricity these two power plants provide the state.
  • Ask the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to hold a series of joint public hearings with the California Energy Commission and the Public Utilities Commission on safety issues.
  • Immediately require an independent seismic safety review of both power plants.

I know that some of our supporters argue that we need nuclear power in order to help solve global warming. We’re proud of our track record when it comes to reducing California’s carbon footprint, and based on careful research and analysis, we are convinced that we can replace nuclear power with cleaner, safer and less costly alternatives.

Environment California has a research report documenting this position.

I hope you join us in calling on Gov. Brown to take action.

[1] “Germany should speed up nuclear exit” Bloomberg News, March 28, 2011 and “Europe to test safety of nuclear reactors”, New York Times, March 25, 2011.

[2] An Assessment of California’s Nuclear Power Plants: AB 1632 Report, California Energy Commission, November 2008.

[3] “Which U.S. Reactors Are Located Near Population Centers?,” Frontier Group, March 14, 2011.

[4] Wald, Matthew L, “Dangerous Levels of Radioactive Isotope Found 25 Miles From Nuclear Plant,” The New York Times, March 30, 2011.

[5] “PG&E Seeks Diablo Canyon license renewal” San Francisco Chronicle, November 25, 2009 and “San Onofre: Nuke plant re-licensing under spotlight” North County Times, March 19, 2011

[6] An Assessment of California’s Nuclear Power Plants: AB 1632 Report, California Energy Commission, November 2008.

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