Saturday, June 30, 2007

Nuclear Power

An option that needs to be reevaluated for use in California.

Steve Wiegand: Nuke power -- time to re-energize?
By Steve Wiegand - Bee Columnist
Published 12:00 am PDT Saturday, June 30, 2007

Here's what's new on nuclear energy in California:
Zip. Zero. Zilch.

OK, that's a bit of an exaggeration. But only a bit. The Assembly has killed an effort to repeal the state's moratorium on new nuclear plants, and a bill to make it tougher for the current nukes to extend their life spans is still alive.

But 31 years after legislators and Gov. Jerry Brown imposed the ban, the prospects of nuclear expanding its role in the state's ongoing energy drama remain dim.

The 1976 moratorium requires the state Energy Commission to assure the Legislature that there's a good way to permanently and safely dispose of spent nuclear fuel, or to reprocess fuel rods, before any new plants can open in California.

In 1978 and again in 2005, the commission formally said ixnay. Another report is due to lawmakers and the guv in November. And judging from the tone at two days of commission hearings on the subject this week, the answer is almost certainly going to be the same: No new nukes even started in California for at least a decade.

Nuclear power already plays a sizeable supporting part in the state's ongoing energy drama, although that may be a surprise to people who figured nukes lost their glow about the time Three Mile Island had a meltdown in 1979.

Actually, California still gets about 15 percent of its electricity supply from nuclear plants.

"It's something of a backbone of energy production in the state," said Steven McClary, an energy consultant hired by the commission to help produce the November report.