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Nuclear Reactor Shutdown Vote 20 Years Ago Reverberates Today in Actions by 900 Mayors and Renewable Portfolio Standards in 2 Dozen States

“Shot Heard Round the World” Echoes in Strong Local, State Opposition Across U.S. to New Nuclear Reactors

June 5, 2009

SACRAMENTO, CA. – June 5, 2009 –  Ahead of the 20th anniversary on Saturday of Sacramento voters going to the polls to shut down Rancho Seco, a nuclear reactor operated by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) about 25 miles southeast of the city, organizers held a news conference today to mark the event.

In his remarks at the news conference, Scott Denman, former executive director of the national Safe Energy Communication Council, emphasized that votes against nuclear power continue to this day. 

Since the historic Rancho Seco shutdown vote, more than two dozen states have legislated or passed referenda requiring that utilities meet a specific target – usually ranging 10-30 percent of the electricity supply – for sustainable energy resources by a specific date, Denman said.  Power that will be available from these “renewable portfolio standards” (RPS) sources is now routinely cited as a reason not to pursue more nuclear reactors.

Additionally, Denman noted that more 900 elected mayors of cities including Denver, Chicago, Portland, Austin, and Salt Lake City have signed the Mayor’s Initiative on Climate Change to use sustainable energy resources to power their jurisdictions to prosperity. 

Denman’s prepared remarks for the news conference read as follows:

“Good morning.  I am a national energy policy consultant and the former executive director of the national coalition, Safe Energy Communication Council.  In 1988, and again in 1989, I coordinated the national environmental community in assisting the local sponsors of the ultimately successful ballot initiatives and campaigns to close the Rancho Seco reactor.

Twenty years ago, I hailed the victory as ‘a shot heard ‘round the world.’  I said then that the intrepid organizers and those who voted to shutdown the reactor were ‘a new breed of American patriots’ and that this historic vote would spark the shift away from costly and dangerous reactors, and catalyze a movement for clean, affordable, safe, secure energy efficient and renewable energy technologies.  That is exactly what has happened.

Since this pioneering vote in 1989, more than two dozen states have legislated or passed referenda requiring that utilities provide a specific percentage – typically ranging between 10-30 percent of the electricity supply – to be generated by sustainable energy resources by a date certain.  More than 940 mayors of cities like Denver, Chicago, Portland, Austin, and Salt Lake City representing 84 million Americans have signed the Mayor’s Initiative on Climate Change to use sustainable energy resources to power their jurisdictions to prosperity. 

By terminating the Rancho Seco reactor, Sacramento’s public power utility, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), today has significantly lower rates than PG&E, Southern California Edison, and many other U.S utilities.  Indeed, SMUD’s innovative energy efficiency and conservation programs have been replicated with great success.  SMUD’s pioneering work to bring utility grade solar and other renewably produced electricity to the grid has been a viable model for communities and utilities.

Proposed new nuclear reactors would simply be too expensive and also take too long to build.  Since the vote (and some 15 years before it), not one new reactor has been licensed.  Sacramento’s voters were prescient as well as prudent managers of their own pocketbooks.  New reactors are now estimated cost customers about 15 cents per kilowatt-hour on monthly electric bills, more than two times more expensive than wind power. In comparison, energy efficiency improvements cost consumers zero to five cents per kilowatt hour.   One Pennsylvania utility (PPL) has just announced that its proposed reactor will cost ratepayers a staggering $15 billion dollars.  Thus, new reactors are a fiscal black hole and loom as a fool’s gold solution to the growing real threat of global greenhouse gases.

The nuclear and utility industries keep coming back to the public trough for more and more bailouts, handouts, tax breaks, and subsidies.  Now, nuclear cheerleaders in Congress are trying to force you and me, the taxpayers to give away more than $100 billion in dangerous loan guarantees and other financial shell games that shift responsibility for failed nuclear projects on to the backs of the American families and businesses.  The Congressional Budget Office has concluded that 50% of new nuclear reactor loans will default.  The nuclear industry and their lobbyists want us to take the risk while they pocket the profits.  This path is a sure way to repeat the disastrous failure of subprime mortgages and unregulated bad debt that nearly collapsed our entire financial system in the past 12 months.  

It’s time to give wind, geothermal, solar and energy efficiency its first real chance.   New reactors would lead us to more lemons like Rancho Seco, deeper national financial debt, and further economic crisis.

We have sustainable energy resources today that we, our children, and our grandchildren can live with.  The bottom line lesson from Ranch Seco 20 years later:  Don’t get fooled by the same old promises of nuclear reactors.  We can’t pay the price.   Thank you.”
 
Other news event participants included former California State Senator Tom Hayden; former SMUD Board Member Ed Smeloff; and Bob Mulholland, campaign manager, No on Measure K.

CONTACT:   Leslie Anderson, (703) 276-3256 or landerson@hastingsgroup.com; and Bob Mulholland, (916) 996-8666 and bob@cadem.org.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  A streaming audio recording of the news event will be available on the Web as of 7 p.m. EDT/4 p.m. PDT on June 5, 2009 here.

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