The Los Angeles Times delivered a major blow to California’s two remaining nuclear plants with a June 24 editorial calling for state officials “to begin the planning for a non-nuclear future,” and a report that energy planners already are “beginning to look at long-range scenarios in which California would use no nuclear power from either San Onofre or the state’s one other nuclear plant, Diablo Canyon on the Central Coast.”
A nuclear-free California has been a goal of the environmental movement for three decades. During the Sixties there were plans for as many as fifty nuclear plants along the coast, including one in Corral Canyon near Malibu. But the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island, the rise of the No Nukes movement across the country, and the first term of “no-nukes” Gov. Jerry Brown replaced the industry’s fantasies with a historic shift to energy efficiency, conservation and the beginnings of the solar industry.
As the spirit of that era waned, the two surviving nuclear plants continued operating. Even after the Japanese nuclear catastrophe last year, there was little sign of revival of anti-nuclear sentiment in the state. The state’s political leadership was inert, including Brown and other politicians who were seeking industry acceptance of tax increases to resolve the deficit. Internal polling showed that voters supported keeping the two nukes open, provided that “safety” was assured.
But the inherent flaws and costs of the plants have once again made their future problematic. San Onofre will continue to be closed through the summer due to mismanagement and faulty engineering, forcing state officials to implement urgent measures to avoid blackouts or heat prostration. Despite industry propaganda, it appears that southern California can survive the summer months with San Onofre down. The costs of repair and reopening San Onofre will be huge enough to spark consumer resistance. And if one plant is phased out, the logic may point to shutting down Diablo Canyon as well.
California could join Germany and perhaps Japan as major states with advanced economies adapting to a non-nuclear future. Grass-roots education and action has been a key to this long process.
For more information, please contact California Responsible Energy Policy via firstname.lastname@example.org.