Edison May Seek New Nuclear Site in CA

By Published On: July 20, 2007

Southern California Edison is in the early stages of examining the feasibility of nuclear plant development in California. On July 16, the utility informed the California Energy Commission that it could seek an “early site permit” from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Seeking an early site permit includes “near term actions” identifying “viable sites,” wrote Edison senior vice president Richard Rosenblum. The “urgency” of global warming was the stated motivation for this move. “Taking this step would reduce uncertainties, provide some assurances of project feasibility, and meaningfully accelerate the availability of a new plant once it’s decided one should be developed,” Rosenblum added. Edison also advised regulators that currently operating plants, like its San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, would provide benefits if its license were extended by 20 years. “Edison’s request is at best premature–bordering on irresponsible,” stated Rochelle Becker, Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility executive director. Pacific Gas & Electric–although it has publicly said it is interested in investing in nuclear plants outside the state–was not pushing the envelope on its future plans inside California. However, PG&E did get California Public Utilities Commission approval for using $14 million of ratepayer funds to study the feasibility of extending the Diablo Canyon plant’s license by 20 years. That funding is not a sure thing, though. A bill to deny it, AB 1046 by Assemblymember Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), was stalled in committee last month (Circuit, June 16, 2007). His office said that it could be brought up again next session. PG&E owns the Diablo Canyon and Humboldt Bay nuclear plants. The Energy Commission has two nuclear power investigations underway. One is under the rubric of the overall 2007 Integrated Energy Policy Report, which is supposed to be the state’s energy blueprint. A second was requested by legislators in AB 1632. The legislation, authored by Assemblymember Sam Blakeslee (R-San Luis Obispo), calls for the commission to study the economic and environmental impacts of nuclear power plants in California. Current state law forbids new nuclear plant construction until there is a long-term solution for the high-level radioactive waste generated by nuclear power plants. However, Assemblymember Chuck DeVore (R-Irvine) is floating an initiative to repeal that law (Circuit, July 14, 2007). Edison’s comments about its future nuclear prospects came on the same day that an earthquake in Japan caused a reported spill of over 300 gallons of radioactive water from the world’s largest nuclear plant with six reactors, as well as the temblor toppling hundreds of barrels of radioactive waste. Subsequent reports revealed that plant was built directly over an earthquake fault. California’s reactors are also built close to fault lines. Humboldt Bay was found to be within a few hundred feet of three earthquake faults. It was shut down for that reason in 1976. PG&E seismologist and geologists are meeting with Japanese scientists to discuss the quake in Japan, the spill of radioactive water from the nuke and plant damage, Sharon Gavin, PG&E spokesperson, told Circuit. She added that Diablo Canyon, which sits close to a fault, was built to withstand an earthquake stronger than occurred in Japan this week.

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