The facts all point to this "inconvenient truth" -- the time has
come to shut down California's two nuclear power plants as part of a
swift transition to an energy policy focused on clean and green
renewable sources and conservation.
The Diablo Canyon plant near San Luis Obispo and the San Onofre
plant on the southern California coast are vulnerable to meltdowns
from earthquakes and threaten both residents and the environment.
Reactor safety is just one of the concerns. Each nuclear power
plant creates radioactive waste that will remain deadly for thousands
of years. This is not the kind of legacy that we should leave for
In the wake of Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown, we need
a basic rethinking of the USA's nuclear energy use and oversight.
There is no more technologically advanced country in the world than
Japan. Nuclear power isn't safe there, and it isn't safe anywhere.
The perils to people are clear. In a recent letter to the U.S.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne
Feinstein noted that "roughly 424,000 live within 50 miles of the
Diablo Canyon and 7.4 million live within 50 miles of the San Onofre
Nuclear Generating Station."
As someone who was an Obama delegate to the 2008 Democratic
National Convention, I believe it would be a tragic mistake for anyone
to loyally accept the administration's nuclear policy. The White House
is fundamentally mistaken in its efforts to triple the budgeting of
federal loan guarantees for the domestic nuclear power industry, from
$18 billion to $54 billion.
Our tax dollars should not be used to subsidize the nuclear power
industry. Instead, we should be investing far more in solar, wind and
other renewable sources, along with serious energy conservation.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is a nuclear-friendly fox
guarding the radioactive chicken coop. The federal government has no
business promoting this dangerous industry while safe and sustainable
energy resources are readily available.
The fact that federal law imposes a liability cap of about $12
billion on a nuclear power accident is a reflection of the fact that
those plants are uninsurable on the open market.
As a candidate for Congress in the district that includes Marin
and Sonoma counties, I intend to make this a major campaign issue. It
remains to be seen whether my one declared opponent, Assemblyman Jared
Huffman, will join me in urging a rapid timetable for the closure of
California's nuclear power plants.
Huffman has ties to California's nuclear-invested utility PG&E.
Between 2007 and 2009, according to campaign finance data compiled by
nonpartisan Maplight.org, he received $11,100 from PG&E, which owns
and operates the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant.
While Huffman and other state lawmakers in February signed a
letter to a federal commission on America's nuclear future citing
seismic "concerns which deserve to be more closely examined," the time
for equivocation on nuclear power is long past. We don't need yet more
study on whether to operate nuclear plants on fault lines.
People want bold and responsible leadership as we face up to the
well-documented realities of nuclear power on this fragile planet.
Norman Solomon was the director of the National Citizens Hearings for
Radiation Victims in 1980 and co-authored "Killing Our Own: The
Disaster of America's Experience with Atomic Radiation," which exposed
the health and environmental effects of the nuclear industry. For more information, go to: