Nuclear energy's future focus of talks
week's workshop in Sacramento will look at Diablo Canyon and San Onofre power
plants' waste storage, aging operating components and effects on the Pacific
As Diablo Canyon
nuclear power plant marks 20 years of operation, the California Energy
Commission will hold a two-day workshop Monday and Tuesday to take a
comprehensive look at the future of nuclear power in the state.
The workshop in Sacramento will be the first time in almost
30 years the state is taking such a complete assessment of nuclear issues.
About an hour at the end of each day of the workshop will be devoted to
Energy officials do not know whether any new
policies or regulations will result from the workshop, said Mary Ann
Costamagna, commission spokeswoman.
Thirteen percent of the state's electrical power is
provided by its two nuclear power plants -- Diablo Canyon in San Luis Obispo County
and San Onofre in northern San
The plants have been reliable sources of
low-emission electricity. However, they face several challenges in the coming
years, including radioactive waste storage and expensive equipment
Luis Obispo County
residents on opposite sides of the nuclear energy issue will participate in
the workshop. Diablo
Canyon plant manager
David Oatley will represent Pacific Gas and Electric Co.
"He will talk about the excellent safety record
of Diablo Canyon and the contribution it makes
to the state's electrical needs," said Jeff Lewis, plant spokesman.
Rochelle Becker, executive director of the San Luis
for Nuclear Responsibility, will argue that nuclear power should be phased
out in favor of renewable energy sources.
"We've had 20 years of nuclear power and
waste," she said. "Twenty years is enough."
The first day of the workshop will be devoted to the
biggest challenge facing nuclear plants nationwide -- storage of the highly
radioactive waste they produce. Both Diablo Canyon
and San Onofre will build aboveground dry cask storage facilities in the
coming years at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars each.
They are necessary because storage pools at each
plant are filling up and construction of a centralized storage facility at Yucca Mountain
in the Nevada desert near Las Vegas has been repeatedly delayed. The
earliest that facility could open is 2012.
The second day will focus on the operating status of
the two nuclear plants. Although the plants are licensed to operate for 20
more years, some crucial components are aging and in need of replacement.
The most significant are their steam generators. Diablo Canyon's steam generator replacement
is expected to cost ratepayers more than $700 million starting later this
Both plants also face concerns about earthquake
safety, the threat of terrorist attacks and the effect of the plants' cooling
systems on the ocean environment.
Michael Thomas, with the Central Coast Regional
Water Quality Control Board in San Luis Obispo, and Peter Douglas, executive
director of the California Coastal Commission, have been invited to the
workshop to discuss the impacts of the nuclear plants on the state's coastal
State energy officials say it is unlikely any new
nuclear plants will be built in the state in the near future. State law
prohibits the construction of any new nuclear plants until the federal
government provides a permanent place to store the spent fuel.
The workshop also will explore the complex way
nuclear plants are regulated. The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission has
sole jurisdiction over radiation safety and plant security. However, the
state Energy Commission regulates other aspects of nuclear power including
its economic viability, reliability and cost to ratepayers.
To participate ...
The nuclear energy workshop is open to the public.
Those who cannot attend can listen to the proceedings via an Internet
broadcast. To listen in, go to www.energy.ca.gov/webcast/.
The public can also call in and participate in the
meeting. Call 1-888-323-9686 by 9 a.m. the day of the meeting and ask for
call leader Peggy Falgoust. The password is "workshop."
covers environmental issues for The Tribune.
E-mail story ideas and comments to him at email@example.com.