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Governor's Comments Spark Nuclear Talk

Nuclear Energy Insight

April 2008—As the result of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s recent comments, nuclear energy is getting a new look in California. 

“I think nuclear power has a great future, and we should look at it again,” Schwarzenegger said at The Wall Street Journal’s recent ECO:nomics Conference.  Other state leaders and media outlets soon after entered the discussion, with many recognizing the benefits of adding nuclear power to California’s energy mix.

Arnold Schwarzenegger Four commercial reactors supply about 15 percent of the state’s electricity.  With many of the state’s cities in violation of the Environmental Protection Agency’s clean-air standards for ozone, nuclear energy is the only expandable large-scale electricity source that can power California’s economic engine without producing greenhouse gases or air pollutants.

In a state that is at the forefront of carbon reduction efforts, a resurgence in nuclear power may be just what California needs.  The state’s four reactors already prevent the emission of 14 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year.  A San Diego Union-Tribune editorial said the renewed interest is a “more rational view of nuclear power” and finds those unwilling to consider nuclear energy stuck in the past.
“Whether we wish to reduce dependence on foreign energy suppliers or to reduce production of greenhouse gases, expanding clean-energy nuclear plants is an obvious decision,” the editorial stated.

But not everyone in California agrees.  Some lawmakers and a Los Angeles Times editorial cite health and welfare dangers of nuclear energy—reasons Schwarzenegger decried as “scare tactics” and an Investor’s Business Daily editorial called “the stuff of bad science fiction movies.”

Despite opposition, it appears that more positive attitudes about nuclear energy’s future are emerging in California.  An editorial from The Marysville (Calif.) Appeal-Democrat said the governor “may have signaled a new era of common sense” for the state.  “We hope this points to a change in attitude among policymakers and to overturning a statewide ban on nuclear power plants imposed in 1976,” the paper stated.

The 1976 moratorium enacted by the California legislature prevents plant construction until a federal repository to manage the byproducts of nuclear power is available.  Assemblyman Chuck DeVore (R-Irvine), who introduced legislation to overturn that moratorium, sees the governor’s comments as a positive sign.

“After more than a year of trying to push the boulder of modern nuclear power uphill in California, it is nothing short of fantastic to have Gov. Schwarzenegger put his considerable shoulder into the effort, too,” DeVore said.

—Read more articles in Nuclear Energy Insight and Insight Web Extra.