If successful, a measure proposed for the November 2012 election would prohibit nuclear power generation in California until the federal government approves a method for disposing of nuclear waste, as well as constructing facilities to reprocess nuclear fuel rods.
In response to the proposal, the state’s non-partisan Legislative Analysts Office (LAO) released a report on Nov. 3 warning of dire consequences should the measure pass. According to that report, nuclear power generates 16 percent of California’s energy.
“Because the state’s two nuclear facilities are integral parts of the state’s electricity grid, their operation is currently necessary to ensure reliable access to electricity in California, particularly in light of regulatory constraints faced by potential sources of replacement power,” the report reads.
In order to make it to the ballot, however, the Nuclear Waste Act of 2012 requires 504,760 signatures by April 16, according to the California Secretary of State’s Office.
The LAO warned that the loss of such a source would more than likely result in the type of “rolling blackouts” experienced during the 2000 energy crisis, the frequency and duration of which would depend on various undetermined factors such as demand and weather.
According to the report, “such disruptions to the electricity grid would have negative impacts on the California economy, including loss of economic output, reduced productivity, loss of jobs, and reduced purchases of goods and services, leading to reduced household and business income.”
The LAO also predicted the possibility of state or federal courts blocking the measure on the basis that a mandated shutdown amounts to an “unconstitutional taking” of private property “without just compensation.”
A spokesman for Pacific Gas & Electric, which operates the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, couldn’t be reached for comment.
The initiative’s author, Ben Davis, Jr., of Santa Cruz, told New Times he is a “self-taught legal professional” who has worked a variety of jobs, including delivery driver and caretaker.
Davis, who describes himself as an anti-nuclear activist, was the original author of the popular voter referendum that decommissioned the Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s Rancho Seco plant in 1989. He said the LAO’s report is “misleading” and “biased,” stating that some people involved in the report have connections to the nuclear industry, though New Times couldn’t confirm that charge.
“This is a Christmas present to the nuclear industry,” Davis said.
Moreover, Davis said the report largely ignores the economic costs of a potential release of radioactivity from environmental factors such as earthquakes or other natural disasters. The report calls these threats “potentially avoidable impacts” that “could collectively amount to billions of dollars,” he said.
Since 1976, there’s been a moratorium on the construction of new plants in California, though Diablo Canyon and the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in Southern California were grandfathered in as exemptions. Both facilities currently store their waste on-site, much to the consternation of many neighboring residents.
“Eventually the public will realize that the risk of nuclear energy is not worth what they are getting out of it,” Davis said.