On November 18, California’s Secretary of State approved the ballot initiative that seeks the closure of the two remaining nuclear power plants in California, thus starting the countdown for collecting the 504,760 signatures needed by April 16 to place this initiative on the ballot in the presidential election in November 2012.
After drafting the initiative that led to the closure of the Rancho Seco nuclear power plant near Sacramento in 1989, I know the power that a handful of people can have when the timing is right. Rancho Seco is the only nuclear power plant ever closed by the initiative process. We can do this again. This current initiative was filed subsequent to the recent nuclear disaster in Japan, knowing that this reminder of the horrific potential of the use of nuclear power has created the environment to pass such an initiative now, assuring that California does not experience a similar disaster in the future.
This initiative was drafted to parallel existing state law prohibiting the creation of new nuclear power plants until the federal government finds a solution to dispose of radioactive nuclear waste and reprocess spent fuel rods. Although outlawing nuclear power plants completely may be the preferable solution, this approach will effectively shut down the two currently operating plants for the foreseeable future by stopping them from creating additional nuclear waste until a federal solution arrives.
Unfortunately, the State of California’s analysis of this initiative is quite misleading. It states that the closure by initiative of the two nuclear plants would have major fiscal impacts on local and state government and cost billions of dollars annually due to rolling blackouts. The potential cost of accident-produced nuclear closure was not taken into account as the state assumes such a disaster to be extremely unlikely. A nuclear disaster such as the recent one in Japan would likely bankrupt California and cause permanent dead zones in some of the most fertile agricultural lands in the state, in addition to all the same effects as closing the plants by initiative.
There are many similarities between the Californian and Japanese scenarios. Prior to the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan, Japanese authorities also said that such a nuclear disaster was extremely unlikely. California is riddled with earthquake faults, and both the San Onofre and Diablo Canyon nuclear power plants are located near known faults. Although an earthquake or tsunami of the magnitude to seriously damage California’s nuclear plants is certainly unlikely, the potential costs, both human and financial, are entirely too great to risk.
We have until April 16, 2012 to collect the 504,760 needed signatures to allow this initiative to be placed on the ballot in November 2012. Please help now in this initial phase of signature-gathering. The nuclear industry is certain to push back hard on this initiative and there will be much to do after the required signatures are received. With your help gathering signatures now, we can be sure that California’s nuclear power plants are closed.
Download the California Nuclear Initiative Petition and Instructions, get seven valid signatures on it and return it immediately to the address at the bottom. Ask each of the seven signers to do the same. If each person reading this does just that much, we will have all the required signatures within a few weeks.
Ben Davis Jr, Initiative Proponent