In an unusual opportunity to comment on nuclear power, California Energy Commission members heard that both operating and shut-down reactors have ongoing impacts with no current policy guidelines. The plants have ongoing?some say interminable-impacts on coastal land from high-level radioactive waste storage. They also affect marine life with thermal pollution. And despite assertions that nuclear plants have no greenhouse gas impacts, they contribute to global warming. The CEC's August 15-16 hearings also brought out nuclear power supporters. They took heart from the recent federal energy bill, which embraces investment in new nuclear technology. They also tout a recent poll that found that 75 percent of the public support nuclear power, and insist that the generation does not cause CO2 pollution. Still, California nuclear plant owners vowed that they are not planning to build any new plants. They were noncommittal about applying to extend the licenses of the Diablo Canyon and San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station nuclear plants. Among the issues presented to commissioners were long-term radioactive waste storage, the impact of thermal pollution, decommissioning, and license extensions. "I have no faith there will be a disposal facility. Certainly not within our lifetime," said Peter Douglas, California Coastal Commission executive director. He said the state should be prepared to host radioactive waste in perpetuity. Adding to the concern that high-level nuclear waste could well stay in California, Gary Schoonyan, Edison director of regulatory affairs, said that although Edison (owner of San Onofre) is an investor in the proposed temporary high-level Private Fuel Storage site in Utah, the utility no longer has plans to utilize that site. Policy makers expressed concern that the cost of storing and protecting that waste has not been forecast or covered. It has been assumed that the federal government would use the funds that utilities have contributed to build a centralized radioactive waste dump. That has not happened, although the government has pushed for one at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. If waste stays in California, then the state might have to consider a fallback position, which could include funding the storage through decommissioning money or through rates, according to several speakers. A Sacramento Municipal Utility District lawsuit against the Department of Energy in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims is attempting to get the government to return funds for waste storage. The best-known thermal pollution from nuclear plants is from cooling the fission reaction with ocean water. Diablo consumes 2.5 billion gallons of seawater a day and returns it to the ocean several degrees warmer. San Onofre does the same, using 2.4 billion gallons a day. However, the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board is still unsure what effects the heated wastewater discharges have on fish, according to Michael Thomas, board assistant executive officer. While nuclear proponents cite the lack of greenhouse gas pollution from the plants, nuclear plants do contribute to global warming, according to Bob Kinosian, Office of Ratepayer Advocates analyst. Instead of emissions pollution, the plants emit thermal pollution, he said. "It's like having a 1,000-watt heater in every house in California." The state's role in hastening the safe burial of aging nukes is an ongoing concern. The Humboldt Bay plant, shut down in 1976, would be decommissioned "a few years after 2009," according to David Oatley, PG&E vice-president and general manager for Diablo. The San Onofre unit 1 reactor, which Edison has attempted to send off-site but has been denied transportation for, will remain encased in concrete on-site "until other arrangements are made," according to Schoonyan. "What mechanism is there that allows me, the state of California, to get that [SONGS unit 1 reactor] off my beach?" commissioner John Geesman asked Nuclear Regulatory Commission reactor projects branch chief Bill Jones. The federal regulator suggested that it may be the Department of Justice. The NRC, he noted, only has authority to make sure the reactor's owner can decommission, but is not required to do so. Decommissioning won't be cheap. Although California stands alone among states in developing and protecting decommissioning funds, the state may have to become more proactive in the near future. ORA's Kinosian said the California Public Utilities Commission will look at modifying the terms of the state's decommissioning trust funds in proceedings beginning in November. Regulators are interested in ensuring that the funds will not be able to be transferred if utilities sell their nuclear plants—as PG&E attempted to do in bankruptcy reorganization. Another nuclear issue expected in the next decade is extending the operations of the state's nuclear plants for 20 more years-to about 2040. Assemblymember Sam Blakeslee (R-San Luis Obispo) confronted the NRC official over federal regulators' hearing process on extending plant licenses. Blakeslee wants the process-if nuclear owners choose to apply for a 20-year license extension?to include looking at potential seismic hazards anew. The NRC's Jones said the process considers only whether the original design basis for a plant is adequate. The CPUC, however, could step in, suggested Kinosian. The state commission could require preapproval for a nuclear plant license extension prior to the plant's owner applying to federal regulators. Although the hearings gave nuclear advocates and opponents a venue, the commission will simply compile the information in its September 8 draft Integrated Energy Policy Report. "There's this law that says, 'Thou shalt not build nuclear plants'" in California, said commissioner Jim Boyd, noting that there is little reason to take up the issue at a political level. California law bans building new nuclear power plants until there is a final resolution of the long-term high-level waste storage problem.