State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, has introduced a bill that will require a detailed report outlining the costs of operating a nuclear power plant.
Senate Bill 418, the Nuclear Energy Planning and Responsibility Act, would require that when large utility companies seek ratepayer funding to renew their federal license — a process that happens every 20 years — they will have to file a report with the California Public Utilities Commission detailing the costs associated with radioactive waste storage, emergency planning, maintaining aging facilities, unplanned shutdowns due to seismic activity, permits and various federal requirements.
In addition, SB 418 would require that utilities show how nuclear power plants would contribute to affordable, reliable electricity supplies. The bill would require the CPUC to review and analyze the report independently and for the report to be made public.
Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego, and Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, are principal co-authors of the bill.
“The public deserves to know the full story and have these questions asked and answered,” Jackson said. “Utilities often tout nuclear energy as an inexpensive source of power. But there have been unforeseen maintenance costs associated with the San Onofre plant and ratepayers have been left with the bill. And as we saw with Fukushima, Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, the costs of nuclear disaster are astronomical and catastrophic. We need some way to judge whether going forward with a nuclear power plant is the best and most cost-effective route to supplying our energy needs.”
“This is strictly a cost transparency measure that does not close these facilities, but rather requires that ratepayers are told all the associated costs of nuclear energy,” said Rochelle Becker, executive director of the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility, sponsor of the bill. “In the past, cost assessments were doled out over time, creating a false impression that nuclear power seems cheaper than it is. Many today have forgotten the original billions of dollars in cost overruns we’ve been paying for since the construction of these plants. The right questions need to be asked this time around, because we can’t afford these costly mistakes again.”
There is currently only one operating nuclear power plant in California — Diablo Canyon near San Luis Obispo — and its federal license is up for renewal. If it were to become law, SB 418 would apply to Diablo Canyon’s current license renewal process.
The San Onofre plant, located between Los Angeles and San Diego, went offline in January 2012 and was ordered by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to stay offline while tubing wear issues were investigated, according to the California Energy Commission. The license for the San Onofre Plant is set to expire in 2022. The plant remains down, more than 15 months later.
Jackson represents the 19th Senate district, which includes all of Santa Barbara County and Western Ventura County. Portions of her district are served by Pacific Gas and Electric, which operates Diablo Canyon, and portions of her district are served by Southern California Edison, which operates San Onofre.
SB 418 is expected to be heard in the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee on April 16.
— Lisa Gardiner is the communications director for state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson.