Why the Current Nuclear Showdown in California Should Matter to You
Does the dream of nuclear power still ‘look bright’ as one enthusiastic investment advisor gushed less than a year ago, or is it the “the dream that failed,” as the Economist asserted as far back as March of 2012?
Approaching 5 years this March 11 after the still on-going Fukushima nuclear disaster, the debate goes on, enveloped in a miasma of mis-, dis-, and conflicting information generated by industry ‘merchants of doubt,’ but rarely leavened by rational analysis of What’s Really What.
The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2015 by Mycle Schneider, Antony Froggatt et al went a long way toward settling the issue with just that – a data-based rational analysis.
Its conclusion: worldwide, despite a few troubled construction starts over budget and behind schedule, “The nuclear industry remains in decline.”
You’d never know it from the pro-nuclear happytalk and proposed subsidy and bailout bills being floated in Congress, but all around the world the global nuclear power industry is fighting for its life.
Nuclear Showdown in California
Nowhere is that battle closer to being decisively lost by the industry than in California, where the Sunshine State’s ‘last nuke standing’ – PG&E’s Diablo Canyon – faces a very uncertain future. A showdown between those who want to shut it down, and those who want to keep it going.
It is a microcosmic drama with all the elements of a movie thriller:
· A corrupt California Public Utilities Commission racked in scandals.
· A compromised Nuclear Regulatory Commission captured by nuclear interests.
· A resurgent peoples’ movement determined to shut Diablo down and responsibly manage the state’s thousands of tons of lethal radioactive waste.
· The growing vision of a nuclear-energy-free West Coast and a solartopian transition.
· A handful of atomic denialists clamoring to ‘save Diablo.’
· All this in the context of deepening climate change and the battle for decentralized, clean, renewable power.
A Diablo shutdown in California would be a shot heard in nuclear boardrooms around the world, and would continue this bellwether state’s well-earned reputation as being ‘no country for old nukes.’
A quick look at the history of California’s Nuclear Free Movement tells the tale.
Back last century, then-President Nixon predicted 1000 nuclear reactors in the US by the year 2000.
In the 60’s, PG&E announced plans to build 63 reactors every 25 miles up and down the California coast.
Thanks to informed popular resistance interventions in the courts, in the legislatures, and in the streets, that didn’t happen.
Only 9 of those planned power reactors ever got built: 1 at Humboldt Bay, 1 at Pleasanton, 2 at Rancho Secco, 3 at San Onofre, and 2 at Diablo Canyon.
Today, only 2 are still in operation, those at Diablo Canyon.
From a planned 63 nuclear power plants in the 1960’s, down to 1 in 2015.
Not a bad track record for the effectiveness of informed non-violent, popular resistance…and a demonstration of the non-viability of nuclear energy – vulnerable as it is to public opposition, industry incompetence, natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and what renowned energy expert Amory Lovins long ago called ‘a terminal overdose of market forces.’
The shutdown of San Onofre in 2012 was hailed as ‘a seismic event’ for the nuclear industry.
The man who said that was in a position to know whereof he spoke, because he had once been an executive in that very industry AND had played an important part as a consultant to
Friends of the Earth in helping to get San Onofre shut down.
That would be Arnie Gundersen. His partner Maggie Gundersen , founded and is president of Fairewinds Energy Education, for which Arnie serves as Chief Nuclear Engineer. https://www.fairewinds.org/