LA Needs to Think Nuclear … and Here’s Why

GUEST WORDS-Very few citizens of Los Angeles are aware of the fact that 10%  of the electrical power the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) distributes to its customers is from a nuclear power plant. Currently coal provides 39% of the energy source for LA's power needs. The low cost per unit of nuclear energy is very competitive and is about the same as coal.  

In March of 2013 the LADWP Board approved a plan to completely transition out of coal. The future policy is to significantly increase the contribution of Renewable's and Natural Gas. 

The LADWP  estimates, in a September 2013 report, that electric rates are expected to approximately double from 13 cents per kwh to 27 cents per kwh by 2032. 

In seeking solutions to reduce the future cost to consumers you would expect  the DWP to exhaust all potential electric energy options. But they have not done so. They have not seriously  considered additional nuclear power. It is a clean, safe, base loaded, reliable, and low cost energy source that will provide the LADWP an alternative to help keep future power costs to the ratepayers as low as possible. 

Solar and wind energy sources can be of significant importance in some applications. However they are not always available to satisfy all our energy needs and are very costly. Natural gas is not a "clean" fuel, but it is less damaging to the environment compared to coal.  

The location of the Palo Verde Nuclear Generation Station (photo) that generates the least costly and most environmentally clean power for Los Angeles is located in Arizona. Bringing electric power from long distances to LA is not unusual. The states of Washington, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Arizona all have power lines that supply electricity to Los Angeles.  

A quote from the 2014 LADWP Briefing Book states, "If stretched end to end, LADWP's 15,000 miles of power lines and cable are farther than the distance from Los Angeles to Australia and back."  

The Palo Verde Nuclear Generation Station in Arizona is owned by a consortium of utility companies. Arizona Public Service owns a major stake (29.1%) and operates the facility. It is located about 50 miles west of Phoenix and is the largest nuclear generating station in the U.S. LADWP ownership is approximately 10% of the facility. 

If the Palo Verde capacity were increased by two additional reactors, for which the plant was originally designed, the amount of nuclear energy in the DWP’s mix could be raised  from the current contribution of 10% thereby significantly lowering the cost for all LADWP customers. 

In his State of the Union address on January 28th, 2010 President Obama said, “To create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. And that meansbuilding a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country. 

"Keeping to his word, on February 16, 2010 the President announced the U.S. Department of Energy had offered to guarantee loans for the building of two new reactors at the Vogtle Electric Generating Plant in Georgia near the town of Waynesboro.  

These will be the first nuclear reactors to be built in the U.S. in 30 years and will add 2,200 mega watts (mw) to the existing plant. Vogtle 1 and Vogtle 2 are the first 2 reactors that have been operational since 1989. The two new reactors are Vogtle 3 and Vogtle 4. Construction stated on Vogtle 3 in March of 2013 with Vogtle 4 to follow soon. 

The  safety record of the 100 plus operating reactors, that have been satisfying the power needs of the U.S.A. has been outstanding. There has not been one death caused during the many decades of operation of these nuclear facilities. 

This fact has helped convince some of the staunchest environmental critics to change their views and now support nuclear power operation. A  CNN 2 hour Broadcast on Nov.11 of last year profiled energy experts and leading environmentalists who opposed nuclear energy years ago but strongly embrace it today. 

Brief comments made by the participants in this program by filmmaker Robert Stone follow.  

  Stewart Brand - Founder and publisher of the Whole Earth Catalog

  Richard Rhodes -Pulitzer Prize Winner - " The Making of the Atomic Bomb"

  Gwyneth Cravens- author of "Power to Save the World".

  Mark Lynas- Environmental Activist, " No compromise in defense of Mother Earth".

  Michael Shellenberger- President and co-founder of "The Breakthrough Institute".


 Gwyneth Craves was a very active opponent of the Shoreham Nuclear Power plant that was built between 1973 and 1984 but never operated. Faced with public opposition the Long Island Lighting Company in 1989 agreed not to operate the plant. 

Most of the 6 billion dollar cost of the unused plant was passed on to Long Island residents. It was decommissioned in 1994. Gwyneth regrets her opposition to the Shoreham Plant. She states  "There has not been one death in the operation of nuclear  plants in the U.S." 

There are approximately 100 power reactors in operation in the US. Many with 30 plus years of life. Gwyneth added that 3 million die each year from the pollution of fossil fuel plants world wide. 

Mark Lynas - He came to the conclusion that nuclear power had to be part of solution in dealing with the climate change. It was clear that wind and solar are not always available and nuclear power is. Mark visited the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear site in Japan. He went on to explain that natural radiation is impacting all of us, all of the time. Higher altitudes increase the level of background radiation. Flying from L.A. to New York you get 20 times the radiation than at ground level. Background radiation levels do not cause cancer.


( I should also point out that in Mark"s book "Nuclear 2.0- Why a Green Future Needs Nuclear Power" on page 45 he writes: " The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) discussed Fukushima in May 2012 and concluded; " To date there have been no health effects attributed to radiation exposure observed among workers, the people with the highest radiation exposures.


To date, no health effects attributable to radiation exposure have been observed among children or any other member of the population." 

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Michel Shellenberger-Michel estimates that the world desires power twice the amount we are currently using by 2050. Almost all the energy you need must be clean.  Nobody is talking about how the world will be able to do this  without destroying the planet. Coal is the fuel choice world wide and it's use is growing as it continues to contribute to global warming. He strongly supports nuclear power.  


Stewart  Brand-The French determined in the 70's that nuclear power was their preferred energy choice for electric power. Today 80% of their power is from nuclear. They have the cheapest energy in Europe and they  sell power to their European neighbors. They have clean air. Their train system is powered by electricity. They also recycle their spent fuel and reuse it, reducing spent fuel storage requirements and fuel costs. 


Richard Rhodes-The world would be a safer place without nuclear weapons. It is assumed that countries with nuclear capability could build a nuclear bomb. However, Mr.Rhodes argues no country has done so. In fact, the U.S. has been buying  from the Russians their weapons grade fissile material and using it to generate power in U.S. reactors.


This program is continuing and should hopefully destroy all the of the weapons of mass destruction in the world. Today approximately one half of the 20% of U.S. nuclear power generated is from the fission fuel material originally in Russian weapons.


The management of the LADWP  Power Systems should meet with the other utility owners of the Palo Verde Nuclear Generation Station to discuss the addition of one or two reactors to the complex. The utility industry in the U.S. has the responsibility of ultimately eliminating coal as a source of power generation.


All of the owners of Palo Verde can benefit from the increased nuclear energy capacity of the facility.


(Joe Vitti, has been a Valley VOTE member since 1998, was elected President in 2003. He has guided Valley VOTE's members and committees in developing positions and preparing reports on key quality-of-life issues facing Valley residents and the citizens of Los Angeles. Vitti served as a Neighborhood Council Review Commissioner in 2006.)