The Orange County Register's Teri Sforza has a fascinating post today that answers the question “Will California be frozen out of Obama's nuclear future?” this way: definitely yes in the short term, possibly no in the long term.
The White House last month announced an $8.3 billion loan guarantee to support construction of two nuclear reactors in Georgia, the first new plants in the U.S. in more than 30 years.
But California will not participate in what President Obama considers an integral component of America's “low-carbon future” because the Golden State in 1976 banned all new nuclear construction until “a demonstrated technology exists” for permanent disposal or reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel.
The leading state legislator to try to change that in recent years is Assemblyman Chuck DeVore (R-Irvine), who is now running for the U.S. Senate. But the bills and voter initiatives he has championed have gone nowhere.
It appeals to our sense of irony to think of DeVore and Obama as
sharing an opinion on any issue. But there you have it. California's
resolve to outlaw nuclear power is beginning to fissure and fracture,
and things will change here, said DeVore, who has made himself something of a policy wonk on the issue.
Fulfilling a dream of new reactors all along the California coastline will not be realized at the polls, under the Capitol dome in Sacramento or through the feds saying the spent fuel disposal issue has been solved, DeVore argues.
More likely would be reactors being built on sovereign American Indian land in California or after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling the finds partial solving of the spent fuel disposal issue is good enough to allow projects to proceeds.
DeVore wagers the next generation of Californians-“which isn't afraid of technology, and doesn't have a Cold War
mentality, and never saw The China Syndrome“-will be more receptive to nukes.
“I am optimistic on the long-term prospects because it makes such
logical sense,” he tells Sforza, “but I'm not optimistic on the short-term
The United Steelworkers is bully on new nukes. On the same day Sforza's post went up, the union announced that USW
International President Leo W. Gerard sent a letter to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory
Commission raising concerns that the two new reactors coming to Burke, Georgia, may use components built overseas.
The USW believes that the majority of the materials used in building
these plants such as steel and piping can be sourced from domestic
facilities employing its members, something the union views as being “integral to the
renewal of manufacturing in America.”
taxpayers should not bear the burden of loan guarantees if the jobs to
be created by them are in another country, said Gerard. “If we're going
to invest in nuclear as a way to become less oil-dependent, then we
need to build it domestically.”
But the whole idea of new nukes is moot if no one comes up with the money to build the plants. Obama's loan guarantees get the conversation started, but billions more will have to be raised by Georgia and the utility company operating there. The Peach State allows pay-as-you-go utility projects where rates go up to help cover construction costs before plants go online.
The Washington Post reports today that the funding mechanism is already running into resistance from businesses and other electricity users in Georgia.
Bottom line: no money, no nukey.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.