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Will nuclear power make a comeback?

What will it mean for Lodi if it does?

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Posted: Saturday, March 6, 2010 12:00 am

Nuclear power, unpopular in many circles for the past four decades, may be making a comeback in California.

It doesn't appear nuclear power will benefit the Lodi-Galt area, however; at least not anytime soon.

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District, for instance, shut down its Rancho Seco nuke plant after voters ordered its closure in 1989. It has no interest in nuclear power at this point, especially now that Rancho Seco was fully decommissioned last year, according to SMUD spokeswoman Dace Udris.

And furthermore, California has had a moratorium on constructing new nuclear power plants since 1976, at least until the issue of safe disposal is addressed. The U.S. gets about a fifth of its electricity from nuclear power, but no new nuclear plant has been built in nearly three decades.

And momentum for new nuclear plants has picked up. Backers say the production of electricity without any emissions of greenhouse gases outweigh potential problems. President Barack Obama announced $8 billion in loan guarantees recently for two reactors to be added in Georgia, an investment he says is necessary to provide electricity from cleaner sources of energy than traditional fossil fuels.

"I give him credit for putting the issue on the table to see how the public responds," said Lodi City Councilman Larry Hansen, who represents the city on the Northern California Power Agency board and currently serves as board chairman.

Giant costs for adding nuclear power have proven to be a drag on utilities, which say the loan guarantees are the only way to get projects off the ground. Reactors can run $6 billion to $8 billion apiece. That tops the market cap of some of the utilities that have wanted to build them.

Officials at the Northern California Power Agency, a coalition of cities and utility districts including Lodi, don't see nuclear energy in its future.

"We certainly don't have it in our portfolio right now," said power agency Assistant General Manager Jane Cirrincione.

Some supporters, including leading nuclear power advocate Chuck DeVore, a Republican assemblyman from Irvine who hopes to oust Barbara Boxer from the U.S. Senate, say they doesn't see enough support — either from the Legislature or the ballot box — to construct any new nuclear plants in California.

However, a group in Fresno is teaming with an international firm called AREVA to build one or two nuclear reactors in an agricultural area west of Fresno near Mendota. John Hutson, president and CEO of Fresno Nuclear Energy Group, says he hopes they have an application on file with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission within a year-and-a-half.

Hutson sees the Fresno-area nuclear plant as a boon for the economically depressed area. And he sees people from as far as Lodi applying for construction jobs if the Fresno group gets the green light to build.

"The public would feel safer with nuclear power plant in the Central Valley," Hutson said. "We don't have the same conditions other places have. We pretty much have seismic stability and plenty of room."

Hutson quoted a study on the proposed Fresno-area plant that said it would generate 17,000 jobs and associated jobs from construction. And if the group builds two plants, the project would generate 600 to 800 good-paying jobs, Hutson said.

The recycled water used at the nuclear plant could come from Fresno's wastewater plant, he added.

Nuclear energy at a glance

— There are 104 commercial nuclear reactors with operating licenses at 64 sites in 31 states.
— There are 439 commercial nuclear reactors in 30 countries.
— Nuclear energy provides about 20 percent of the United States' electricity.
— Six states have nuclear power as the largest percentage of their electricity: Vermont (73.7 percent), South Carolina (51.2 percent), New Hampshire (46 percent), Illinois (47.8 percent), New Jersey (49 percent) and Connecticut (45 percent).
— In 2007, approximately 15 percent of worldwide electricity was generated from nuclear reactors. Countries generating the largest percentage of their electricity from nuclear energy were France, 76.8 percent; Lithuania, 64.4 percent; Slovakia 54.3 percent; and Belgium, 54 percent.
Source: Nuclear Energy Institute

Local thoughts on nuclear power

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton:
"We'll need to explore a variety of sources for this energy, including wind, solar, biofuels and nuclear. However, the development of nuclear power must be safe, economically feasible, and the issue of waste disposal should be addressed before moving ahead with any large-scale projects."

State Sen. Dave Cogdill, R-Modesto:
Supports nuclear power as a realistic, environmentally friendly and affordable option, according to spokeswoman Sabrina Lockhart.

Assemblywoman Alyson Huber, D-El Dorado Hills:
Huber was focused on budget votes and educational issues Thursday, so she didn't have any comment on nuclear power, according to spokeswoman Jennifer Wonnacott.

Jack Sieglock, Republican candidate for 10th Assembly District:
"Everything needs to be on the table. We need to see what's the most cost-effective way to keep electrical prices down. The science is there to make things safe today. We shouldn't have some arbitrary-type bans."

Larry Hansen, Lodi City Councilman:
(Represents Lodi on Northern California Power Agency board)
"I have mixed feelings. Nuclear power is expensive. It is prohibited in California. We do not have a lot of options, and we're told that this country's need for electricity is going to double in the next two or three decades."

Taj Khan, Lodi:
(Managed nuclear and mechanical engineering at Rancho Seco Nuclear Power Plant)
"The U.S. doesn't have any option but to build nuclear plants. Coal and oil and gas emit carbon dioxide, which contributes to global warming. The whole world is moving toward something that doesn't include carbon dioxide. I think the whole world has to return to nuclear power."

President Obama speaks about nuclear power

Remarks by President Barack Obama on energy to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 26 in Lanham, Md., Feb. 16

"We'll be in big trouble by 2030 if we don't get more electrical power," Hutson said.

Lodi resident Taj Khan, a retired manager at the Rancho Seco nuclear power plant, acknowledges that building nuclear plants can be an expensive proposition.

"But if you look at the alternative — the cost of global warming — I don't know where else you're going to go," Khan said. "Wind, solar and biomass are pretty much limited."

California still has nuclear power plants at two locations — Diablo Canyon, operated by Pacific Gas & Electric Co. in San Luis Obispo, and San Onofre in northwestern San Diego County, just south of San Clemente. San Onofre is jointly owned by Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric, and the city of Riverside.

Diablo Canyon and San Onofre are allowed to operate because those plants were built prior to the 1976 moratorium.

Meanwhile, some states, including Minnesota and Wisconsin, are conducting legislative hearings to consider lifting the moratorium in those states, according to Steve Kerekes, a spokesman for the Nuclear Energy institute.

"We feel there will be increasing support," Kerekes said. "The catalyst is to look closer at our technology. If they start studying some of the advantages, they will recognize there is an important role for it in our society."

DeVore, the Irvine assemblyman, said he has sponsored five bills in the last four years, but none of them got the Legislature's support. Last year, DeVore authored a bill that would lift the moratorium on a one-time basis that may have paved the way for the Fresno project, but it died in the Assembly Natural Resources Committee.

Other ways to get a nuclear plant built in California, DeVore said, include a ballot initiative, or using American Indian lands because they are a sovereign nation.

DeVore tried the ballot initiative process two years ago, but he withdrew it because polls indicated there may not be enough support to pass the initiative.

"You need somebody with a vision to move forward to break the logjam," DeVore said.

DeVore doesn't see a short-term support for nuclear power plants, but new ones are bound to be constructed at some point.

"Eventually, the pressing need for reliable, affordable, low-emission electricity will intrude," DeVore said. "The light at the end of the tunnel will be a nuclear power light."

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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Welcome to the discussion.


  • posted at 3:25 pm on Sun, Mar 7, 2010.


    Pre$$ure$onAre you trying to put Uncle Larry out of a job?I love it how can I help? LOL

  • posted at 1:45 pm on Sun, Mar 7, 2010.


    Why doesn't CCHansen and the NCPA talk about the co-gen plant that sits rusting away at White Slough now? Another LEUD-NCPA project a while back that can't be ysed because it can't conform to the newer EPA smog regulations? What will be done with that structure that's just rotting away and useless unless it were to be upgraded to meet the regulations? And has LEUD_NCPA_CCHansen considered upgrading rather than building another gas fired plant that also will be obsolete in another 5 years or so. You'd think that CCHansen, LEUD and the city of Lodi would have learned their lesson when the NCPA took them foor a ride in 2005. Forrest Gump was right -"stupid is as stupid does". And if Lodi has to come up with the $10,000,000+ when Modesto pulls out, where will that money come from chairman CCHansen?

  • posted at 12:06 pm on Sun, Mar 7, 2010.


    Davidpzk, the NCPA is on the cheap with everything they touch. That's why prop 16 is going to be on the ballot this June and I urge everyone to vote yes. Do you realize that inferior power brokers are involved in risky buys day after day and are considered the most probable reason to either bankrupt a city or cause them to lose their bond ratings with their careless methoods and management? With CCHansen as chairman of the board of the Northern California Power Association, would you really trust them with a cent of your money? As they did in 2005, lackadaisically buying power when the market was very volatile and made a sour buy that cost Lodi higher, 67%, I believe, rates to Lodi users and almost $200,000,000 debt for LEUD? Why is Lodi even still dealing with them? Maybe because CCHansen could be wheeling and dealing in the back room? Who sent Mr. Morrow down the road? I don't believe for a minute he left on his own. That's not what rumor says. Why isn't the interim manager of LEUD involved in any of these issues and CCHansen giving the orders? Observer, you are so right. Sell LEUD.

  • posted at 11:47 am on Sun, Mar 7, 2010.


    davidpzk: Thanks to you and Google, I just read about the Westinghouse AP1000 Nuclear Reactor. It`s a shame more people are not aware of it. The most surprising fact is, that from the time the first concrete is poured to the time the fuel rods are in place, 36 months start to finish. Quite a remarkable achevement. To think this country could produce most if not all the power needed without adding to global warming, ( if there is such a thing ) without using any natural resources. We are already 10 years late, if Obama doesn`t do anything else right, hopefully he will sign on to nuclear power.

  • posted at 8:00 am on Sun, Mar 7, 2010.


    Why are we partnering with the French AREVA company to build this plant? The Westing House AP1000 design is far superior to the French AREVA design.

  • posted at 7:07 am on Sun, Mar 7, 2010.


    Nuclear power should never have had to make a comeback. If we had proceed properly years ago nuclear power would be our major source of power. Too bad.

  • posted at 2:09 pm on Sat, Mar 6, 2010.


    What to do with used Fuel rod’s, simple ask the French…American ingenuity is lagging behind Europe in many ways, I believe It’s time that changed, what say you???

  • posted at 12:04 pm on Sat, Mar 6, 2010.


    Build it, dam it!

  • posted at 10:41 am on Sat, Mar 6, 2010.


    Whichever way you pronounce it dogs, it's the power of the future and with all the advancements in seismically constructing buildings and plants, the technology is there to build a nuclear plant safer than any structure that's ever been built. Again, the only problem is finding a place to store those spent fuel rods. I was watching the science channel last week about the windmills and was always wondering why they were stopped when the wind was blowing away. It's because they have brakes and shutdown systems that lock them in a stopped position because if they get too much velocity of windpower they will shutter and shake and spin their own blades off. I would have never have known. And the flying debris will destroy other windmills along with them.

  • posted at 10:30 am on Sat, Mar 6, 2010.


    Journey, your right on the button why should we build more nuklr Plant’s. let the Europeans beat the pant’s off America when it comes to Nuclear power, the reuse of Nuclear fuel rods, of Clean Diesel and Wind power, hell it just shows how lame this country has become. We were even buying wind turbines from China till congress put a stop to it.. Diablo Canyon has run for25 years and new turbines were put in over the past year and it runs on witha generation capacity for over 1 million homes.. No matter what Obama says there is no such wonder fuel as Clean Coal…

  • posted at 10:07 am on Sat, Mar 6, 2010.


    Journey, earthquakes have happened in areas where quakes have never occurred in the past. Mother earth is not the most stable of planets, at one time the Auburn dam had the potential of creating a lake for recreaton and a vast water supply, an fault line put the breakes on that. It never really got past the planing stages, and we can all hope and pray that the big one never strikes Hover Dam, other wise Vegas will be without power and Laughlin, Navada will end up in the Gulf of Mexico.

  • posted at 8:57 am on Sat, Mar 6, 2010.


    I have been a cheerleader for Nuclear Power for years. PG&E`s Diablo Caynon is the best run most efficent Nuclear Power plant in the country. The power it produces would equal all those wind power gizmo`s in the state and then some. The Three Mile incident was caused by man, the operators were not taught properly in the operaton of the plant, you cannot cool the reactor by shuting off the water, which is what happened, never the less no one was killed or injured. The spent fuel rods are still on site at Diablo Canyon and remain a problem as far as storage is concerned. The French rely on Nuclear Power as their main source of producing power and have found a way to recycle the spent fuel rods, seems the USA lags behind in the disposal of the spent fuel rods. And BTW it`s pronounced nuclur.

  • posted at 4:51 am on Sat, Mar 6, 2010.


    Don't we need more nu-cu-lar plants? It will have to be so eventually, so why not begin now? It will be the demise of smaller electrical utilities such as Lodi electric, who don't have the resources or funds to build anything larger than a gas fired pollution belching co-generation plant.

  • posted at 2:42 am on Sat, Mar 6, 2010.


    I wonder if earthquake-prone areas of the country are the best places to build nuclear power plants?

  • posted at 1:56 am on Sat, Mar 6, 2010.



  • posted at 1:55 am on Sat, Mar 6, 2010.


    How ironic that so many of those standing in the way of progress call themselves Progressives.

  • posted at 1:54 am on Sat, Mar 6, 2010.


    Lift the moratorium. Build nuclear power plants. Too many skeptics caused the shutdown of Rancho Seco. Instead of having Rancho Seco online we'll have to start all over again. Unless the powers to be are smart enough to realize those reactor towers are just as safe as they were when they bulit the plant and just just update the facility. This seems like a reasonable approach. But then when was all the red type involved to get the ball rolling a reasonable approach? I'd say get rid of those standing in the way of progress.



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