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Jun-05-2009 16:32printcomments

Echoes of Rancho Seco Nuclear Shutdown Still Heard Two Decades Later (AUDIO)

“Shot Heard Round the World” Echoes in Strong Local, State Opposition Across U.S. to New Nuclear Reactors.

Rancho Seco

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) - Ahead of the 20th anniversary on Saturday of Sacramento voters going to the polls to shut down Rancho Seco, a nuclear reactor operated by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) about 25 miles southeast of the city, organizers held a news conference today to mark the event.

In his remarks at the news conference, Scott Denman, former executive director of the national Safe Energy Communication Council, emphasized that votes against nuclear power continue to this day.

Since the historic Rancho Seco shutdown vote, more than two dozen states have legislated or passed referenda requiring that utilities meet a specific target – usually ranging 10-30 percent of the electricity supply – for sustainable energy resources by a specific date, Denman said. Power that will be available from these “renewable portfolio standards” (RPS) sources is now routinely cited as a reason not to pursue more nuclear reactors.

Additionally, Denman noted that more than 900 elected mayors of cities including Denver, Chicago, Portland, Austin, and Salt Lake City have signed the Mayor’s Initiative on Climate Change to use sustainable energy resources to power their jurisdictions to prosperity.

Denman’s prepared remarks for the news conference read as follows:

“Good morning. I am a national energy policy consultant and the former executive director of the national coalition, Safe Energy Communication Council. In 1988, and again in 1989, I coordinated the national environmental community in assisting the local sponsors of the ultimately successful ballot initiatives and campaigns to close the Rancho Seco reactor.

Twenty years ago, I hailed the victory as ‘a shot heard ‘round the world.’ I said then that the intrepid organizers and those who voted to shutdown the reactor were ‘a new breed of American patriots’ and that this historic vote would spark the shift away from costly and dangerous reactors, and catalyze a movement for clean, affordable, safe, secure energy efficient and renewable energy technologies. That is exactly what has happened.

Since this pioneering vote in 1989, more than two dozen states have legislated or passed referenda requiring that utilities provide a specific percentage – typically ranging between 10-30 percent of the electricity supply – to be generated by sustainable energy resources by a date certain. More than 940 mayors of cities like Denver, Chicago, Portland, Austin, and Salt Lake City representing 84 million Americans have signed the Mayor’s Initiative on Climate Change to use sustainable energy resources to power their jurisdictions to prosperity.

By terminating the Rancho Seco reactor, Sacramento’s public power utility, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), today has significantly lower rates than PG&E, Southern California Edison, and many other U.S utilities. Indeed, SMUD’s innovative energy efficiency and conservation programs have been replicated with great success. SMUD’s pioneering work to bring utility grade solar and other renewably produced electricity to the grid has been a viable model for communities and utilities.

Proposed new nuclear reactors would simply be too expensive and also take too long to build. Since the vote (and some 15 years before it), not one new reactor has been licensed. Sacramento’s voters were prescient as well as prudent managers of their own pocketbooks. New reactors are now estimated cost customers about 15 cents per kilowatt-hour on monthly electric bills, more than two times more expensive than wind power. In comparison, energy efficiency improvements cost consumers zero to five cents per kilowatt hour. One Pennsylvania utility (PPL) has just announced that its proposed reactor will cost ratepayers a staggering $15 billion dollars. Thus, new reactors are a fiscal black hole and loom as a fool’s gold solution to the growing real threat of global greenhouse gases.

The nuclear and utility industries keep coming back to the public trough for more and more bailouts, handouts, tax breaks, and subsidies. Now, nuclear cheerleaders in Congress are trying to force you and me, the taxpayers to give away more than $100 billion in dangerous loan guarantees and other financial shell games that shift responsibility for failed nuclear projects on to the backs of the American families and businesses. The Congressional Budget Office has concluded that 50% of new nuclear reactor loans will default. The nuclear industry and their lobbyists want us to take the risk while they pocket the profits. This path is a sure way to repeat the disastrous failure of subprime mortgages and unregulated bad debt that nearly collapsed our entire financial system in the past 12 months.

It’s time to give wind, geothermal, solar and energy efficiency its first real chance. New reactors would lead us to more lemons like Rancho Seco, deeper national financial debt, and further economic crisis.

We have sustainable energy resources today that we, our children, and our grandchildren can live with. The bottom line lesson from Ranch Seco 20 years later: Don’t get fooled by the same old promises of nuclear reactors. We can’t pay the price. Thank you.”

Other news event participants included former California State Senator Tom Hayden; former SMUD Board Member Ed Smeloff; and Bob Mulholland, campaign manager, No on Measure K.

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Sal Dale February 16, 2010 12:03 am (Pacific time)

I am also an environmentalist FOR nuclear power. A single US coal plant emits over 800 tons of radioactive uranium and as well as another 800 tons of radioactive thorium in its fly ash in a single year. One coal plant produces more nuclear waste in an hour than a nuclear facility of much larger output does in an entire year. The ORNL Review has this information freely available as do many other non-industry sites. The spent fuel and nuclear waste of a nuclear power plant is heavily regulated, coal fly ash is not and been spilled quite literally into peoples homes and public schools. Considering the US is planning to build hundreds more coal plants that produce nuclear waste as well as greenhouse and smog forming emissions while vilifying nuclear as unclean and unsafe is to let the worst offender of them all off scot free (the coal industry). Nuclear power as the baseload supplier is for a wind and solar platform is the best answer. Thanks for reading my two cents!

JB June 7, 2009 8:46 pm (Pacific time)

I've never insulted any of the writers on this site but I have had some of my comments not posted.

Editor: Well I can't recall exactly why that would be the case and I don't care, it sounds like we'll get along fine.  Just know that we have worked tirelessly with great dedication to this organization for five solid years and it means a lot to us.  

JB June 7, 2009 6:56 pm (Pacific time)

Tisdale, your right, Nuclear energy in addition to wind solar and tidal is the way to go. Be careful of this site though if you don't agree with them they shut you out. Editor: Only difficult and possibly insulting people would think such a thing. I'll use this as an opportunity to remind visitors that this is a news organization, not an arm of your government, and therefore there is no requirement for "free speech" which is pretty easy to figure out I would think. We have a 92-year old Op-Ed writer who has a heart of gold and people probably like this character JB just hurl insults that are personal toward our writer and we think that is unacceptable. Thus you have JB's comment's real nature. If anyone dislikes our politics they are welcome to comment rationally and their words will be published. If a person wants to comment on a story that one of us spent hours researching and writing, simply to say we are all wrong and full of it, then they shouldn't expect to see their comment published. Finally, respect brings respect. Thanks.

Tisdale June 5, 2009 7:07 pm (Pacific time)

Nuclear power has proved safe in both France and America — not one radiation-related death has occurred in the history of U.S. commercial nuclear power. It constitutes a vital alternative to the greenhouse-gas spewing coal-power plants that account for over 50 percent of U.S. electricity generation. Thousands of people die annually breathing the noxious particles of coal-fire installations. Of course, wind and solar power should be developed, but even by mid-century they will satisfy only a fraction of U.S. energy needs, however much those needs are cut. Hundreds of square miles of eyesore wind farms barely produce the electricity you get from a nuclear plant on less than a square mile. “Nuclear power is the most efficient energy source we have,” said Gwyneth Cravens, author of “Power to Save the World: The Truth About Nuclear Power.” “Uranium is energy-dense. If you got all your electricity from nuclear for your lifetime, your share of the waste would fit in a soda can.” Cravens once feared this waste so much that she demonstrated against nuclear power plants, but she’s come around. Like Patrick Moore, a founder of Greenpeace who once lambasted nuclear power as “criminal” and now advocates its use, she’s been convinced by the evidence. That’s called growing up.

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