Atomic Show #220 – Atoms for California

Andrew Benson from Atoms For California contacted me last week to find out if I was interested in having a conversation about the history of nuclear energy in California, with a special focus on the history of the antinuclear movement in that trend-setting state. It sounded like a great idea for an Atomic Show so I jumped at the chance.

Andrew is not exactly a household name. He described himself as a “lowly energy analyst” at the California Energy Commission who recently completed a double major in political science and economics at the University of California Davis.

He has recently developed a strong interest in nuclear energy and in learning more about how our society has arrived at its current situation with regard to the use of that important, game-changing technology.

Andrew’s father is a Senior Reactor Operator at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS). Though he still holds that title and will remain employed by the facility until he completes his career and retires, his father and many of the people he knows had their lives suddenly altered on June 7, 2013 when Southern California Edison announced that it was going to permanently close SONGS.

Andrew knew that the plant was readily repairable, but he also watched the powerful alignment of political forces who worked hard to make it as difficult and as financially risky as possible for SCE to continue trying to obtain permission to repair and restart the plant. For a time, Andrew’s father was not sure that he would be able to keep his job and remain in San Diego, where he and his family have lived for the past 30 years.

As an energy analyst at the California Energy Commission, Andrew is exposed to detailed information that is rarely read by the public about the effects that the closure decision is having on the California electricity grid and on the ability of the state to maintain a reliable supply of electricity.

We talked about the antinuclear movement history, the various energy options that California is developing and the possibility that the future will be different from the past. We mentioned some of the land impacts of unreliables like wind and solar, especially when installed as large scale facilities on undisturbed land. Here is the visual image that Andrew mentioned during the show.

Wind farm land impact is not limited to turbine foundation

Wind farm land impact is not limited to turbine foundation

It was a fascinating discussion. Andrew is a well-spoken young man who has realized that he has a pro-nuclear energy passion. He is, by the way, just 22 years old.

I hope you all enjoy the show.

Here are links to publications discussed during the show.

Critical Masses (part 1):
Critical Masses (Part 2):
Just some assorted links about the challenges to a renewables only approach:

A few more things – if you think this kind of program is valuable, feel free to make a donation that will assist in growing the Atomic Show audience. One of our goals is to begin to purchase carefully placed advertising. We want more and more people to have the opportunity to listen to people like Andrew so that they begin to recognize the importance of clean energy in our lives. We want them to be able to follow the money and understand who benefits when plants like San Onofre are forced to close.

If you think, but I’ve already donated, ask yourself how many times you have tipped your favorite bartender, waitress, garbage man or valet. Is the service provided here any less valuable?

It’s also important to recognize who is bearing the brunt of successful antinuclear actions like the ones that experienced in Southern California.

If you are a fairly typical nuclear professional, you receive a decent salary and have good career prospects. Be aware, however, that there are numerous facilities that face political opposition that is as strong as the groups that forced SONGS to permanently retire as a result of a single steam generator u-tube leak that was not even in excess of the technical specification that would have forced a shut down.

So far, most displaced nukes have found good jobs at other facilities, but the demand for your services right now is limited due to the increased supply of available, well-trained workers from places like SONGS, Crystal River, Kewaunee, and Vermont Yankee. The law of supply and demand applies to skilled workers as well as to commodities like electricity.


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