LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Assemblyman Chuck DeVore will try to put an initiative on the ballots in June 2008 for Californians to decide whether the state should allow construction of nuclear power plants, his office said on Wednesday.
The Republican from Irvine in Orange County, who has failed to get the state legislature to lift a ban on new nuclear power plants, needs to get signatures of 500,000 registered voters. To ensure those signatures can be validated, he wants to collect 1 million.
In 1976, California banned construction of new nuclear power plants until “there exists a demonstrated technology for the permanent disposal of spent fuel,” according to the California Energy Commission.
In February, DeVore introduced a bill to lift the ban, but that bill died in committee in April. The committee vote was along party lines -- six Democrats against, three Republicans for.
DeVore says he will bring the bill back to the legislature next year, in addition to working on the ballot initiative.
“Modern nuclear power will allow us to add jobs while improving the environment. There are really no other options capable of generating the large amounts of power we need,” DeVore said.
Proponents of nuclear power argue that it is better for the environment than other sources because it does not emit carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas linked to global warming.
Opponents fear dangerous accidents and say there is no safe way to dispose of the spent fuel.
California last year passed an ambitious law requiring the state to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020, to levels not seen since 1990.
DeVore wants to get his measure on the June ballot but may have to delay until November 2008. He said he prefers June to avoid competing for attention during the presidential election.
California has two working nuclear power plants, both in place before the 1976 ban. Those plants along with imported nuclear power -- mainly from Arizona -- account for about 14 percent of the electricity the state consumes.
No new U.S. nuclear power plants have been ordered since 1978, the year before the Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania.
DeVore said a draft of his initiative mentions dry cask storage of spent nuclear fuel as a solution to the waste issue. He said such storage -- already in use at the two California plants -- can keep the spent fuel for at least 100 years, when a long-term storage site or other solution can be found.
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