Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant: The WikiBook/Anti-nuclear movement in California

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The 1970s proved to be the pivotal period for the anti-nuclear movement in California. The climate between nuclear power advocates and environmentalists was confrontational.[1] In 1981, some 1,900 anti-nuclear activists were arrested during protests at Diablo Canyon Power Plant. In 1984, the Davis City Council declared the city to be a nuclear free zone. California has banned the approval of new nuclear reactors since the late 1970s because of concerns over radioactive waste disposal.

Early conflicts

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The birth of the anti-nuclear movement in California can be traced to controversy over Pacific Gas & Electric's attempt to build the nation's first commercially viable nuclear power plant in Bodega Bay. This conflict began in 1958 and ended in 1964, with the forced abandonment of these plans. Subsequent plans to build a nuclear power plant in Malibu, California were also abandoned.[2]

1970s and 1980s

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The anti-nuclear movement grew in California between 1964 and 1974. It was during this period that some scientists and engineers began supporting the positions of the activists. They were influenced by the non-material philosophy that had inspired activists and had impacted the public consciousness.[2] While Californian voters did not pass a 1972 proposal placing a 5-year moratorium on nuclear plant construction, anti-nuclear groups campaigned to stop construction of several proposed plants in the seventies, especially those located on the coast and near fault lines. These proposals included the Sundesert Nuclear Power Plant, which was never built.[1][3]

Image:Diablo canyon nuclear power plant.jpg|thumbnail|Diablo Canyon Power Plant in San Luis Obispo County, California, USA

Over a two-week period in 1981, 1,900 activists were arrested at Diablo Canyon Power Plant. It was the largest arrest in the history of the anti-nuclear movement in the United States.[4][5] Specific protests included:

  • August 6, 1977: The Abalone Alliance held the first blockade at Diablo Canyon Power Plant, and 47 people were arrested.[6]
  • August 1978: almost 500 people were arrested for protesting at Diablo Canyon.[6]
  • April 8, 1979: 30,000 people marched in San Francisco to support shutting down the Diablo Canyon Power Plant.[7]
  • June 30, 1979: about 40,000 people attended a protest rally at Diablo Canyon.[8]
  • September 1981: more than 900 protesters were arrested at Diablo Canyon.[6][9]
  • May 1984: about 130 demonstrators showed up for start-up day at Diablo Canyon, and five were arrested.[10]

During this period there were controversies within the Sierra Club about how to lead the anti-nuclear movement, and this led to a split over the Diablo Canyon plant which ended in success for the utilities. The split led to the formation of Friends of the Earth, led by David Brower.[2]

In 1979, Abalone Alliance members held a 38-day sit-in in the Californian Governor Jerry Brown's office to protest continued operation of Rancho Seco Nuclear Generating Station, which was a duplicate of the Three Mile Island facility.[11] In 1989, Sacramento voters voted to shut down the Rancho Seco power plant.[12] The salient issues were mostly economic; the plant kept breaking down, and it had been shut from late 1985 to early 1988 for repairs, forcing the district to buy electricity from neighbors.[13]

On June 22, 1980, about 15,000 people attended a protest near San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.[14]

California has banned the approval of new nuclear reactors since the late 1970s because of concerns over High level radioactive waste|waste disposal.[15][16]

Nuclear-free communities

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One of a set of two billboards in Davis, California advertising its nuclear-free policy
The second billboard corresponding to the one above

On November 14, 1984 the Davis, California City Council declared the city to be a nuclear free zone. Another well-known nuclear-free community is Berkeley, California, whose citizens passed the Nuclear Free Berkeley Act in 1986 which allows the city to levy fines for nuclear weapons-related activity and to boycott companies involved in the United States nuclear infrastructure.

Recent developments

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PG&E announced its decision to pursue license renewal for Diablo Canyon in November 2009, and local officials "came out in support because of the economic importance of the plant and its 1,200 employees and $25 million in annual property taxes".[17] However, local anti-nuclear activists oppose renewal and want PG&E to focus more on renewable energy. They are also concerned "about the seismic safety of the plant given the recent discovery of a new earthquake fault nearby".[17]

In April 2011, there was demonstration of 300 people at Avila Beach calling for the closure of Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant and a halt to its relicensing application process. The event, organized by San Luis Obispo-based anti-nuclear group Mothers for Peace|Mothers for Peace, was in response to the Fukushima I nuclear accidents|Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.[18]

See also

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  1. a b San Diego Gas & Electric, Sundesert Nuclear Power Plant Collection
  2. a b c Critical Masses: Opposition to Nuclear Power in California, 1958-1978
  3. August S. Carstens Collection
  4. Conservation Fallout: Nuclear Protest at Diablo Canyon
  5. Daniel Pope. Conservation Fallout (book review), H-Net Reviews, August 2007.
  6. a b c Social Protest and Policy Change p. 44.
  7. Amplifying Public Opinion: The Policy Impact of the U.S. Environmental Movement p. 7.
  8. Gottlieb, Robert (2005). Forcing the Spring: The Transformation of the American Environmental Movement, Revised Edition, Island Press, USA, p. 240.
  9. Arrests Exceed 900 In Coast Nuclear Protest New York Times, September 18, 1981.
  10. Testing and Protesting Time, May 14, 1984.
  11. Hippy Dictionary p.559.
  12. Shutting Down Rancho Seco
  13. Matthew L. Wald. Vermont Senate Votes to Close Nuclear Plant The New York Times, February 24, 2010.
  14. Williams, Eesha. Wikipedia distorts nuclear history Valley Post, May 1, 2008.
  15. Jim Doyle. Nuclear power industry sees opening for revival San Francisco Chronicle, March 9, 2009.
  16. Minnesota also has a moratorium on construction of nuclear power plants, which has been in place since 1994. See Minnesota House says no to new nuclear power plants StarTribune.com, April 30, 2009.
  17. a b Nuclear Regulatory Commission dealing with multiple issues at Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant
  18. Julia Hickey (April 17, 2001). "Anti-nuclear rally at Avila Beach". The Tribune.
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