December 10, 2007 Hearing Information



CalTrans Headquarters
Garcia Auditorium
4050 Taylor Street
San Diego


December 10, 2007
1 p.m. to 4 p.m.


I. Welcome
II. Introduction
  • Senator Christine Kehoe, Chairwoman
    Senate Energy, Utilities & Communications Committee
III. Overview
IV. Performance of Existing Nuclear Generating Stations
V. Future of the Nuclear Industry: Economics, Greenhouse Gas Impacts, Safety, Waste Disposal
VI. Concluding Remarks
  • James Boyd, Vice-Chairman
    California Energy Commission
  • Senator Christine Kehoe, Chairwoman
    Senate Energy, Utilities & Communications Committee

    The link to the Energy Commission's consultant report entitled Nuclear Power in California: 2007 Status Report is:
VII. Public Testimony




Nuclear power is undergoing something of a rebirth. Following the accidents at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania and Cherynobl in the former Soviet Union nuclear power plant construction virtually halted. Concerns about safety, cost, and environmental impacts made nuclear power extremely unattractive virtually everywhere. France has been the exception, with 59 nuclear power plants now accounting for 75% of French electricity production.

However, circumstances have changed. The threat of global warming has rekindled an interest in nuclear power, which emits no greenhouse gasses while producing electricity, creating a rift in the environmental community. This environmental benefit, combined with more reliable and safe operation of existing nuclear power plants, has created an opportunity for the nuclear industry to promote a safer and less expensive power plant design.

Federal law has been favorable to nuclear power as well. Numerous and substantial federal subsidies, from liability limitation to loan guarantees to production subsidies, have improved nuclear power plant economics from an electric customer perspective. As a result, the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission expects to receive 12 applications to build new nuclear power plants this year, the first in nearly 30 years, and plans for another 15 more next year. (On September 24 NRG Energy became the first to file, with an application to build two very large nuclear reactors in Texas.) New nuclear plants are being built in China, Finland, and Japan.

The long-term nuclear waste disposal issue has not yet been resolved. Yucca Mountain, Nevada has been designated by the Department of Energy to be the repository for the nation’s nuclear waste. DOE is preparing an application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to construct the repository. If all goes according to plan the DOE expects to accept nuclear waste in 2017. But that best-case estimate must be viewed in light of the ongoing scientific uncertainty of the suitability of the site and the strengthened political opposition to Yucca Mountain. In the meantime waste from nuclear power plants is generally stored on site underwater in pools and above-ground in large concrete casks.

California and Nuclear Power

California law prohibits the permitting of any new nuclear power plant unless the California Energy Commission finds that the federal government has demonstrated that the authorized U.S. agency has approved, and that there exists a technology for, the permanent disposal or reprocessing of spent fuel from these facilities.[1] After extensive public hearings, the CEC determined in 1978 that neither spent fuel disposal nor reprocessing technologies met the required standard, effectively placing a moratorium on land-use permitting for new nuclear power plants in California. The CEC reevaluated the status of these technologies in 2005, reaffirming its 1978 finding.

There are four nuclear power plants in California, of which two have been shut down. PG&E’s Humboldt Bay Nuclear Powerplant, located near Eureka, was shuttered in 1976 because of seismic issues. The Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s much larger Rancho Seco Nuclear Generating Station, which operated poorly, was shut down in 1989 by a vote of its customers.

The remaining operating nuclear power plants in California are PG&E’s Diablo Canyon Power Plant in San Luis Obispo and the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, jointly owned by Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas and Electric Company, and the cities of Riverside and Anaheim. Additional nuclear power-generated electricity comes from the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station (PVNGS), the biggest power plant in the United States. PVNGS is jointly owned by several utilities, including Southern California Edison, the Southern California Public Power Authority, and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. About 13% of California electricity is generated from nuclear power.

Additional Reading

Attached are several articles describing this nuclear renaissance and discussing issues related to nuclear power plants. While the window of opportunity has been opened for more nuclear power plants, substantial controversy remains over cost, safety, nuclear proliferation, and waste disposal.

The California Energy Commission has compiled a large volume of testimony regarding nuclear power as a result of their June hearings. These are availability publicly:


[1] Sections 25524.1 and 25524.2 of the Public Resources Code.