One of the things that I love about the Internet is the ability to find articles from local newspapers about topics that get little attention in the national media. Those local sources often provide layers of details and information about the people involved in the activity that are key to a full understanding of what is happening. It is the next best thing to getting on a plane and talking to the people involved yourself.
On December 14, 2006 FresnoBee.com published an article written by Jeff St. John, one of their local staff writers, titled Nuclear plant idea takes hold – Group says it will seek power facility for Fresno. Jeff did an excellent job in introducing the people involved in the project, which provides some context for their interest and chances for success. For example, here is a comment from the group’s leader:
Still, the backers of Fresno Nuclear Energy Group LLC are optimistic, noting that new federal incentives for nuclear plants and California’s growing need for electricity sources that don’t emit greenhouse gases could improve their prospects.
“We’re not rushing,” said John Hutson, president and chief executive of the new corporation. As chairman of the Fresno Utility Commission, Hutson first floated the idea of a Fresno nuclear plant in August. “We’re convinced this will work,” he said.
Hutson cited the economic benefits a nuclear plant could bring to the central San Joaquin Valley — thousands of high-paying jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues — as well as the role it could play in meeting California’s growing demand for electricity.
The group has picked a strong partner for their development project by choosing Unistar with its US-EPR power plant. Since Unistar is a neighbor of mine (they are also located in Annapolis, MD) I am partial to activities that will aid in their success.
The group has a number of key members that are also local businessmen. Here is a representative sample and an indication of the financial resources available for the application process.
The other members of Fresno Nuclear Energy Group include Al Smith, president and chief executive of the Fresno Chamber of Commerce; Dick Caglia, a prominent Fresno businessman; Richard Egan, owner of Central Supply Co. and other businesses in Fresno; Bob Smittcamp, president and chief executive officer of Fresno-based beverage and frozen and canned fruit company Lyons Magnus; and Tom McClean, a Bay Area-based contractor and consultant.
Fresno Nuclear Energy Group has access to about $10 million, the amount likely to be required for the multiyear process of seeking construction and operation licensing from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Hutson said.
As a former manufacturer in a small town, I had serious flashbacks when reading about how local businessmen had gathered together to take action to solve an important problem – the reliable supply of affordable electricity. Most Americans think of electricity as almost a right, but businessmen recognize it as a key enabler of their ability to function. For many types of companies, the cost of electricity is also a key driver in their ability to compete in the marketplace.
For the small company that I ran (I spent about three years as the General Manager for a small custom injection molding company named J&M Industries, Inc. out of Tarpon Springs, FL), our electrical bill was generally larger than the paychecks of the top three employees put together, and that was for a company that ran a factory with skylights as a major lighting source and fans and large, garage style doors as the main source of cooler air. Winter heating bills did not exist – we were in Florida and got any necessary heat from the machines.
Of course, the usual suspects were quoted in the article to provide the required journalistic “balance”.
But skeptics of Fresno Nuclear Energy Group’s proposal said they doubted the plant would ever be built — and the key obstacle, they said, is the state’s moratorium.
“I think the odds are close to zero that the moratorium will be lifted, and for good reason,” said Carl Zichella, regional staff director for the Sierra Club in Sacramento. “There are so many other things we can do that are so much smarter than wasting time on nuclear power.”
The Sierra Club would like to see investments instead in alternative energy sources like solar and wind power, as well as renewable fuels like ethanol and biodiesel.
There is plenty more in the original article. Go now. Read it and think about what you can do to help Fresno and other areas in California make the right choices about energy supplies. I love some of the products that the state produces and want to see them become more readily available at lower prices.