Nuke California

Investor's Business Daily
March 26, 2008 Wednesday


Energy: California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who once thought nuclear power unworthy of mention, now sees it as a source of nonpolluting energy worth exploring. One California legislator wants to see if he's serious.

When he ran for governor in 2003, Gov. Schwarzenegger issued a seven-page compilation of his environmental positions that spoke a great deal about alternative energy sources but said absolutely nothing about nuclear power.

Discussing energy issues recently, he now says nuclear power has "a great future" and warrants examination as a way of achieving energy independence and dealing with his favorite crusade -- global warming.

Schwarzenegger said that nuclear technology "has advanced so much," and also that "we are now seeing that there is such an unbelievable reduction in waste."

He noted that "there are certain environmentalists out there that put the scare tactics out there" and that nuclear power could "be very beneficial, like in France where they get 82% of their energy through nuclear power, to look at that because there's no greenhouse gas emissions."

State Assemblyman Tom DeVore of California's 70 th District, who has touted the benefits of nuclear power on these pages and elsewhere, has submitted two bills that would do more than just look at its potential.

The Irvine Republican says, "I'm delighted to see Gov. Schwarzenegger now out front on this vital issue."

And so are we. We have long argued that nuclear power is potentially a safe and nonpolluting source of domestic energy and that its touted dangers are mostly the stuff of bad science fiction movies.

A.B. 1776, which DeVore calls "a good number for a bill that would increase our energy independence," would entirely lift California's nuclear ban with added seismic and environmental protections. A.B. 2788 would lift California's nuclear ban and permit the construction of one 2,000 megawatt nuclear power plant that could provide as much as 5% of the state's power needs.

California has banned construction of new nuclear power plants since 1976. Four reactors under construction at the time were allowed to be completed, and Californians should be glad they were.

Two units began operating at Diablo Canyon near San Luis Obispo in May 1985 and March 1986, and two more began operating at San Onofre -- about midway between Los Angeles and San Diego -- in August 1983 and April 1984.

Those four units furnish about 13% of the state's electricity. They reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 22 million metric tons. According to DeVore, adding four more modern reactors would let the electrical sector cut emissions by 40% -- returning the sector to 1990 levels, a goal once set by the Kyoto Protocol.

The good folks at the National Center for Policy Analysis remind us that a single quarter-ounce uranium pellet creates as much energy as 3 1/2 barrels of oil, 17,000 cubic feet of natural gas or 1,780 pounds of coal, all with no carbon emissions.

Critics such as Democratic Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, chairman of the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee, say that "nuclear power has no future in California's new energy era because of its monumental dangers to the health and welfare of Californians."

Forget the CO2 it eliminates.

Yes, we know about Three Mile Island, where no one died or even got sick, and where the only radioactive debris was a puff of steam that emitted the same amount of radiation as a single chest X-ray.

As for Chernobyl, that was an indictment of the corrupt and inept Soviet system -- not nuclear technology.

In April 2005, Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace who gained prominence in the 1960 s by opposing nuclear testing, told the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Energy and Resources: "Nuclear energy is the only non-greenhouse-gas-emitting power source that can effectively replace fossil fuels and satisfy global demand for energy."

As Gov. Schwarzenegger now seems to agree, the only thing Californians need to fear about nuclear power is not having enough of it.