It may take a Fukushima-type nuclear disaster to force California away from its reliance on two aging, dangerous nuclear plants at San Onofre or Diablo Canyon. The Fukushima catastrophe has virtually stopped the nuclear industry in Japan, and moved enlightened Germany to phase out its nuclear dependency. With the virtual disappearance of the robust anti-nuclear movement of the late 1970s, public opinion is adrift and state officials are focused on other crises like the budget for education.
But the shutdown of San Onofre and recent intervention by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission offer a new opportunity for California to resume its now-dormant role as a global leader in rejecting nuclear for conservation and renewables. A report this week by a nuclear consultant to Friends of the Earth suggests that a “culture of secrecy” has allowed the San Onofre damage to leaking reactors to be under-stated.
An emergency is predictable if San Onofre remains shut down as the summer approaches, requiring emergency generation and conservation measures and millions in new ratepayer costs. Customers of SoCal Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric already pay higher rates for the $671 million cost to replace steam generators in 2010 and 2011 which now have failed.
CALPIRG is ramping up its efforts divert the state from nuclear power into a “flex your power” campaign like the 2001 effort which reduced peak consumption by 9 percent statewide. Calls are being issued for immediate hearings and action by Gov. Jerry Brown and Sen. Barbara Boxer. California “can’t count on nuclear power and should stop investing in it,” says CALPIRG state director Emily Rusch.