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Natural Perspectives: How to bring that power to the people

June 12, 2012|By Vic Leipzig and Lou Murray

I would make a bad Amish person because I like electricity. So does Vic.

We like it so much that we want to make sure that we keep receiving it, but we wonder where electrical power is going to come from in the future.

As the population grows and we all acquire more and more electrical devices, demand for electricity increases.

According to information from the National Petroleum Council, commercial and residential usage of electricity was less than 1000 kilowatt-hours per person in 1970. Today, it is about 2700 kilowatt-hours per person. That number is projected to rise to 3000 kilowatt-hours per person by 2020. All of that electricity is going to have to come from somewhere.

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Here in California, most of our electricity is generated by gas-fired power plants. Some comes from hydroelectric plants. Some comes from coal-fired plants, but all of those are at out-of-state locations, like the Four Corners area of New Mexico.

A growing amount of our electrical energy comes from solar energy capture. A small portion comes from geothermal plants, and another small portion from wind. Finally, another portion — a major one — comes from nuclear power plants. The nearby San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station has a production capacity of 2200 megawatts, enough to power 1.4 million households.

A nearby nuclear power plant is a problem, as far as I'm concerned. When nuclear power first came online in the 1960s, I was a big supporter of this so-called clean energy source. But then came the "incident" at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Middletown, Pa. in 1979. According to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, design-related problems and worker errors led to a partial meltdown of a reactor core there.

That was 12 days after release of the movie "China Syndrome," a story about a fictional nuclear power plant and an incident that nearly led to catastrophe.

Sure, our nuclear power plants have containment structures, but those can fail. Just look at what happened during the tsunami at the Fukushima power plant in Japan. And do I need to bring up Chernobyl?

I'd say that we have enough evidence to say that accidents happen. And when one does happen, I don't want to be anywhere near it. Fifty miles is supposed to be a safe distance in case of a nuclear meltdown.

Uh oh — we live less than 30 miles from San Onofre.

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