Major Breakthrough: Statewide Network Forms to Close Nuclear Plants
by Jack McCurdy
Synopsis: Five months after the Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown in Japan, more than 50 organizations held an anti-nuclear summit to organize a statewide network seeking closure of the Diablo Canyon and San Onofre nuclear plants by advocating programs to encourage conservation and expand the development of renewable energy as alternatives to nuclear power.
More than 50 citizen groups across California have held what they describe as the first Anti-Nuclear Post-Fukushima Summit, and many of them now are organizing a network aimed at shutting down the Diablo Canyon and San Onofre nuclear plants and pursuing stepped up development of renewables and encouraging conservation as alternatives to reliance on nuclear power. Among the groups is the local Mothers for Peace.
The organizing effort comes just as a 5.8 magnitude earthquake hit the east coast on August 23, raising concerns anew about the safety of the country’s nuclear plants, including California’s two plants. The quake caused the shutdown of the Dominion Resources nuclear plant in Mineral, VA, just 80 miles from Washington D.C., when one of the diesel generators designed to keep the reactors’ radioactive cores cooled failed to function. A similar failure led to the Fukushima plant meltdown. (See: USA Nuclear Dominion)
Public reaction in California to the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster had seemed muted. But no more. Such a network could provide the power in numbers that may be needed to convince local and the state governments in California to begin focusing on long-range ways to phase out the two nuclear plants through large-scale ways to save energy and to develop alternative sources of energy.
The creation of a statewide alliance to pursue these goals represents a major breakthrough in determining what actions the public itself may have available and should consider in getting behind to protect communities from the same or similar earthquake disaster that struck the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan last March 11, killing 15,000 people, leaving 5,000 others missing and injuring an estimated 5,800.
With radiation rising from the disabled plant and spreading around the world (George Washington2 Blogspot), no one is predicting the short- and long-term impacts on public health in Japan and everywhere else. "The whole world will be exposed from the radiation from Fukushima," one physicist was quoted as saying (see link above).
In addition, Mothers for Peace and 25 other organizations have petitioned the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to suspend re-licensing or licensing of any nuclear plants, including Diablo Canyon, until the Commission implements the recommendations of its special task force to review and improve safety standards at U.S. nuclear plants in the wake of Fukushima, as reported by the Slo Coast Journal.
The NRC on Aug. 19 ordered its staff by Sept. 9 to identify the recommendations needing urgent attention, which it said would involve a "public dialogue," and "to lay out all agency actions to be taken in responding to lessons learned from the Fukushima Dai-ichi accident" by October 3. Over the next 18 months, the staff was instructed to respond to the task force's recommendation that the NRC "create a regulatory framework that is logical, systematic, coherent and more easily understood," which the task force showed it does not now have.
A second Anti-Nuclear Summit is being planned by the new network for September 27 in San Clemente, and a rally is in the works also in San Clemente on October 1, to which the public is invited.
Diablo Canyon and San Onofre supply California with about 12.9% of the state's electrical energy, Jane Swanson, spokesperson for Mothers for Peace, reported, based on state records. PG&E, which owns and operates the Diablo Canyon plant, reportedly has claimed the figure to be 20%.
"We could conserve that 12.9% away very easily," Swanson said. "Germany is doing it. It's energy use is down by one-third since Fukushima. There is no reason why California can't do the same thing."
The new anti-nuclear network, which does not have a formal name yet, is pursuing "energy conservation and clean, safe, renewable solutions to establish a nuclear-free California," said Gene Stone, founder of the Residents Organized for a Safe Environment (ROSE) in San Clemente, which is near the San Onofre plant.
It was Stone's idea to invite interested organizations to the Summit in San Mateo the day after the MUSE (Musicians United for Safe Energy) anti-nuclear concert was held on Aug. 7 in Mountain View where some of the anti-nuke groups had a booth. The MUSE concert was a fund-raiser for the victims of the Fukushima disaster and for clean, safe energy.
He said many of the groups, which included ROSE, San Clemente Green and the Coalition for Responsible and Ethical Environmental Decisions (CREED), all from San Clemente, as well as Mothers for Peace, joined in pledging to organize the network at the Summit. The Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility of San Luis Obispo attended but left early, he said. It has declined to participate in the network. (The names of some of the organizations that attended the Summit are listed at the end of the article.)
"We are now getting to know each other and are planning to develop our position on closing the plants," he said. "We are working on a statewide action plan." Presumably, a top priority of that plan could involve meeting with Governor Jerry Brown and state legislators to discuss the objectives of their network and enlist their cooperation, if not support.
The second Summit on September 27 is being planned earlier in the day before an evening meeting of the San Clemente City Council where some staff members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and representatives from Southern California Edison, the utility that owns and operates the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, are scheduled to report on lessons learned from the Fukushima plant meltdtown pertaining to the San Onofre plant, he said.
Members of the alliance asked the council to allow some alliance members to participate in that discussion, rather than just make comments as members of the audience, and the council has agreed, he said. But Stone said the city staff is now balking, and whether alliance members will be allowed to participate as requested is up in the air. The public also will have the opportunity to comment at the meeting, Stone said.
In its organizational stage, one action the alliance is considering, Stone said, is to ask voters to decline to support candidates in next year's state elections if they will not support the goals of the network.
Following are some of the organizations that attended the first Summit:
Abalone Alliance for Survival, Abalone Alliance Clearinghouse, Mothers for Peace, Redwood Alliance, Progressive Democrats of Los Angeles, Green Leap Forward, Women's Energy Matters, Peace and Freedom Party, Los Angeles Greens, Alliance for Survival, Sacred Sites Peacewalk for a Nuclear Free World, No Nukes on Faults, Coalition For Responsible Ethical Environmental Decisions (CREED), San Clemente Green, Residents Organized for a Safe Environment (ROSE), Veterans for Peace Chapter 162 East Bay San Francisco, No Nukes Caucus Veterans for Peace, Ecological Options Network (EON), Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth.
The Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility "did not sign up to be part of this coalition," executive director Rochelle Becker said in response to a question by the Journal about whether it will join the anti-nuke alliance. "Our mission is state law and we work with oversight and elected officials and this year and next our plate is very full," she said. "A4NR is involved in two CPUC (California Public Utilities Commission) cases, waiting for 2011 CEC (California Energy Commission) recommendations from its July nuclear workshop and drafting possible legislation for 2012. We wish these organizations well, but their paths appear to be more 'direct and/or public action' oriented, while A4NR is more politically strategic."