An initiative drafted by California’s “nuclear terminator” is collecting signatures to qualify for the 2014 ballot, and it holds some pretty stiff implications for the state’s nuclear industry.
The California Nuclear Waste Act of 2014, sponsored by Ben Davis, Jr., of the California Nuclear Initiative, passed through the Secretary of State’s office on Feb. 6.
This isn’t the first time a potential ballot measure got under way to prohibit California’s two nuclear power plants—Pacific Gas & Electric’s Diablo Canyon and Southern California Edison’s San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station—from generating electricity until the federal government develops a way to store spent nuclear fuel.
It needs 504,760 signatures to qualify.
Davis earned his moniker following his involvement in drafting the initiative that was successful in shutting down the Rancho Seco nuclear plant in Sacramento in 1989.
In 2011, Davis’ initiative failed to gather enough signatures to qualify for the ballot after the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office issued a report claiming the plants’ closures would result in rolling blackouts throughout the state during usage peaks, potentially costing the state billions of dollars.
Davis later waged a legal campaign challenging that claim, taking his argument before the State Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case, but also allowed the group to resubmit its initiative for LAO review. The LAO later removed all cost figures from its report.
Since the 2012 ballot, Davis said, aftereffects from the Fukushima disaster and the fact that the San Onofre plant hasn’t been operating for more than a year—even at one point coupled with an entire shutdown of Diablo Canyon, without resulting in rolling blackouts—give the initiative more credence.
“We don’t need nuclear energy, and the risks of nuclear energy in California don’t out weight the benefits, by any means,” Davis told New Times.
He said he’s currently gauging grassroots support for the measure, as well as possible donors for the cause.
“The proposal has not qualified for the statewide ballot, so we are not commenting on it specifically at this time,” Blair Jones, spokesman for PG&E, told New Times. “However we believe that nuclear power is a key component to delivering a reliable, affordable, and environmentally responsible mix of electricity to our customers.”
Diablo Canyon generates enough electricity for more than 3 million people in northern and central California, he added, and is able to be productive around the clock. He argued that if this resource weren’t available, their customers’ reliance on fossil fuels would increase dramatically, and the cost to replace nuclear energy would be substantial. From a local perspective, Diablo Canyon is a vital economic interest with jobs and the purchase of goods in the local economy, Jones added.