Arnie: Let's look again at nuclear

18 March 2008

California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger thinks nuclear power has a "great future" and that the state should seriously reconsider using the "beneficial" technology.


California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger 
Schwarzenegger: Tough on carbon
(Image: Wall Street Journal)
Schwarzenegger's comments came during the Wall Street Journal's 'Eco:nomics' conference in San Diego on 14 March. He discussed California's leading role in climate protection in the USA and forthcoming plans for carbon dioxide emissions controls. These could come either as a levy per tonne of CO2 emissions or as part of a cap-and-trade system, which Schwarzenegger said would have to include a tough emissions cap: "Unless you put a serious cap on it, you will not get there," he said. 


During the on-stage interview, which brought in John Byron of Edison International from the audience, Schwarzenegger remembered: "As a matter of fact, we had an interesting conversation where I brought up the conversation about nuclear power."


"I myself think that nuclear power has a great future and I think that we should look at it seriously again."


A 1975 law prohibits the use of land in California for the construction of new nuclear power plants until the State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission confirms the existence of "an approved and demonstrated technology or means for the disposal of high-level nuclear waste." At the current rate of progress, the USA national radioactive waste repository planned for Yucca Mountain would not be ready before 2017 at the earliest.


Schwarzenegger acknowledged that "there are people who are scared about it" and that "there are certain environmentalists that put the scare tactics out there," but added that the volumes of radioactive waste produced by new reactors would be far less than the existing fleet because "technology has advanced so much."

"We can really, I think, look at that issue again, rather than just looking the other way and living in denial, because it would be very beneficial," concluded the heavily muscled legislator.


California, the most populous state in the USA with over 36 million inhabitants, has set targets to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Schwarzenegger said this was a reduction of 25%, and that the state would go for an 85% reduction by 2050. In addition, there are clean-energy initiatives based around rooftop solar power and the use hydrogen for road transport among other things.


There are currently four nuclear power reactors in operation in California: Diablo Canyon 1 and 2 (owned by Pacific Gas & Electric Co) and San Onofre 2 and 3 (owned by Southern California Edison Co and San Diego Gas & Electric Co). The plants provide some 16% of California's electricity needs.