April 04, 2007

California considering bill to lift nuclear power plant ban

A legislator from Southern California has introduced a bill to lift the state's ban on new nuclear power plants. The bill would give a boost to plans by investors to bring nuclear power to the heart of the San Joaquin Valley.

Update: Contact your california state assembly representative to indicate your support for this bill

Those who support the bill:
Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine. (introduced the bill)
"I think we need to at least advance the discussion," he said. "And if we're not ready to do it this year, I'm prepared to bring this bill back again and again."

"The entire Southern California area is really in a precarious position in terms of energy consumption and energy needs," said . "And it's only going to get worse before it gets better."

John Hutson, the Fresno Nuclear Energy Group's chief executive
Terry Caldwell, mayor of Victorville (population 100,000) in San Bernardino County

The Fresno Nuclear Energy Group LLC, which formed last year, signed a letter of intent with UniStar Nuclear Development LLC, a subsidiary of Constellation Energy in Baltimore, to design, build and operate a plant. Their preliminary plan calls for a single reactor generating 1,600 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 1.2 million homes. The Fresno firm is hoping to build the nuclear power plant next to a large sewage treatment plant and use its wastewater to cool the reactor.

Those who are against the bill:
The chairs of both the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources and the Utilities and Commerce Committee argue that there are plenty of other environment-friendly methods of generating electricity, such as geothermal, wind and solar power.

Less against:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, has softened her previously hard-line stance against nuclear power.

Polling trends indicates shift to support for nuclear power:
July, 2006 poll by the Public Policy Institute of California, 39 percent of Californians surveyed said they supported the building of additional nuclear power plants, while 52 percent opposed the idea.
In 2005, the results were 33 percent in support and 59 percent opposed.

Opinions have shifted even more dramatically among likely voters. Last summer, that group was split down the middle at 46 percent on each side of the issue. In 2005, the result was 37 percent in support and 55 percent opposed.


Kirk Sorensen said...

Very interesting...

I was thinking this morning about how much the "environmentalist" community (and I put that in quotations because I think they are hurting the planet terribly by fighting nuclear power) hate nuclear power.

Whenever you bring up the thought of new nuclear energy, or better forms of nuclear energy like thorium, they say things like "well, once upon a time they said it would be too cheap to meter" or "they said it was safe but look at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl".

What's remarkable to me is how new ideas in nuclear energy are rejected out of hand by this community. Somehow they consider the technology so utterly irredeemable that no matter how many of their issues you address (whether it's safety, waste, or economy) they won't consider it.

Contrast that with their opinions on solar and wind energy. For fifty years we're heard about how in the future the world will be powered by "cheap clean solar energy". Well, solar is definitely NOT cheap. But that doesn't both them--they think governments should subsidize solar development heavily (which they already do) and penalize energy use. But subsidies, when associated with nuclear power, are considered grounds for killing the technology.

Solar and wind power make the tiniest fraction of planetary power. They are growing, but not fast enough to make up for world energy demand. But that is not a problem to this crowd--they continue to place their faith in this technology even when all real metrics point to its un-economy and the fact that it can't be developed fast enough.

All the while the coal producers laugh their heads off and continue to dig the black rock out of the ground and make money on the death of thousands.

The enviros need to wake up, or at least be consistent in the arguments. If subsidies are bad for nuclear, then they're bad for solar. If nuclear is un-economic, then you better look at solar in the same viewpoint. If toxic nuclear waste is a planetary threat then you have to think about all the arsenic, cadmium, and other yummy bits that will come from the billions of tons of solar panels that will be expended after 15 years or so. Solar panels don't last very long in real operation.

kurt9 said...

Opposition to nuclear power is generational. It's one of those hippie baby boomer things. The boomers in this age group are reaching retirement and will soon drop off the political scene. At such time, opposition to nuclear power will go away.

Opposition to nuclear power will be very marginal by 2020.

bw said...

The almost even split with voters between those for and those against new nuclear plants is the key. A couple of more percentage points and the bill gets passed to allow plants in california. then plants start getting built.
Any further support in the future for nuclear power would be less important.

Then there is the question of how many support significantly investing in mass produced new uranium fission or thorium. Actually having coherent national and state level energy policies. Enough people and politicians may stumble upon the correct choices out of fear of global warming and CO2.

So long as the right choices are made that is all that matters.

Kirk Sorensen said...

kurt, I'm afraid that when all the boomers retire they'll have more time on their hands to continue to inflict political damage.

Chuck DeVore said...

I appreciate the discussion on this board.

With Sen. Perata's bill last year that bans the renewal of contracts from coal power (20 percent of California's power is from coal), coupled with AB 32's growing restrictions, we've backed ourselves into a corner. I don’t see how we make up coal’s 20 percent while keeping power reliable and affordable for working class Californians without nuclear power at least doubling to fill part of the vacuum caused by the departure of coal.

Solar today produces 0.2 percent of power in California. We could increase it by a factor of 10 and it still would not be enough.

All the best,

Chuck DeVore
State Assemblyman, 70th District

bw said...

I hope that really was a message from State assemblyman Chuck DeVore.

In terms of what is called nuclear waste it is mostly not completely burned nuclear fuel.
0. Public education to understand what the real risks are. How deadly coal energy is and how it releases uranium and thorium into the air.

There are two ways to handle nuclear "waste"
1. With nuclear reprocessing as is done in France, Japan, UK, Russia. the Japan reactor cost about $20 billion and took 13 years to make. The US would need three of those to handle all of its current yearly production. It seems like a better alternative than Yucca Mountain.

2. With high burn reactors like Thorium Liquid-Flouride reactors.

One of the critics in a news article (John Galloway) was talking about nuclear costs being unknown. He was referring to 4th gen reactors. We have to build the 3rd (or 3.5 gen) generation reactors. 26 are being built around the world. Plenty of recent cost data and build times.

We need to look at up-powering existing and new reactors. Donut shaped nuclear fuel and nanoparticles in the coolant can allow a 50% power increase. (work from MIT research)

We should apply better particulate and other filtering to the coal plants. US Senator Carpers 2006 bill would be a good start. Cleaning up air pollution is an unfinished job. Fixing air pollution will save medical cost money and lives.

Marshall Cohen said...

On the California bill (Devore), I believe there is a hearing on it, AB 719, on april 17. It would be a shame to leave the field that day to the anti-nukers. soem show of support is critical to sending messages to the California Legislature of the importance of giving this serious consideration, study and ultimately, passage.