Thirty years ago, Californians had seen all they wanted of nuclear power. A law passed in 1976 prohibited the construction of new nuclear reactors.

With the debate over greenhouse gas reductions now waging and with memories of the 2000–2001 energy crisis, at least one lawmaker has decided the time has come to rethink the highly controversial source of power.

Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine, has proposed an initiative for the state’s June 2008 ballot that would lift the 1976 ban. That law prohibited the construction of new reactors until a permanent storage facility is found for the radioactive waste that is produced. With no permanent facilities currently planned and the future of the proposed national repository at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain still uncertain, no new reactors can be expected in California for the foreseeable future.

DeVore isn’t willing to wait. He introduced legislation last year that would have repealed the moratorium, but there was little support for it in the legislature.

Having failed in that arena, he has opted to go to the people of California. In an essay posted on PowerforCalifornia.com, the group he has spearheaded to launch the initiative, DeVore touts the ability of nuclear power to help the state resolve its energy problems, extolling its advantages over all other forms of renewable power. He claims that “by building just four 1,600 megawatt reactors, California could phase out all coal usage by 2020, while holding flat the use of costly natural gas to turn power generators.”

It remains to be seen if DeVore’s enthusiasm for nuclear power will catch on with the rest of California. The initiative must first garner 400,000 signatures before if can be qualified for the ballot. Then, it will be up to voters to decide. EC