Calif. lawmakers analyze nuclear power option


California's own strict global warming law mandating severe reductions in greenhouse gas emissions is forcing the state to look at where it gets its electricity. Since coal-fired power plants pollute too much, some lawmakers think it may be time to re-consider a much cleaner option that has zero emissions: nuclear power.

"There are people out there who suggest that the only way we can achieve the goals we've laid out for California is to have nuclear energy a part of our future. We shouldn't take it off the table," St. Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima, said.

The state already has two nuclear plants Diablo Canyon and San Onofre which generate about 15 percent of the overall energy portfolio.

California cannot move ahead with any more nuclear plants until it lifts its moratorium that has been in place for decades. A legislative committee began examining the pros and cons of getting rid of the ban in order to expand nuclear power.

Noted experts testified how much nuclear power is safer these days and that renewable sources like wind and solar won't be able to keep up with California's population growth and reduce emissions at the same time.

"Nuclear generated electricity can make a contribution to this goal because it is cost effective compared to most others," Stanford University Nobel Laureate Burt Richter, Ph.D. said.

But there's the issue of waste and what to do with it. The state's plants store it on-site in air-tight containers. Environmentalists still worry about the risks given some high profile accidents outside California and the multi-billion dollar price tag that comes with building another plant.

"We should be looking at energy efficiency, renewables and other power sources before we look at reviving the dinosaur of new nuclear plants," Jim Metropulos of Sierra Club said.

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