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Majority of Californians Oppose New Nuclear Energy Projects

by Michael Higham, published

Majority of Californians Oppose New Nuclear Energy Projects Credit: Julius Fekete /

In the latest edition of Californians and the Environment, the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) revealed that most of the state opposes nuclear energy. The sentiment is shared across every demographic surveyed by the PPIC -- political preference, region, age, gender, and ethnicity.

The question appeared:

"Do you favor or oppose the following proposal -- building more nuclear power plants at this time?"

Majority of Californians Oppose New Nuclear Energy Projects

Among the several regions in California

Inland Empire residents (73%) are the most opposed, followed by residents in Los Angeles (66%), the Central Valley (64%), the San Francisco Bay Area (60%), and Orange/San Diego (58%). Women (72%) are much more likely than men (54%) to oppose building more nuclear plants. Across racial/ethnic groups, blacks (80%) are much more likely than Latinos (68%), whites (60%), and Asians (59%) to be opposed. Lower- (68%) and middle income (65%) residents are more opposed than upper-income residents (55%).

Today's feelings towards nuclear energy are reflective of public opinion just after the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan. The adamant opposition also follows the currently operational Diablo Canyon plant and the recently closed San Onofre plant.

Diablo Canyon has been met with protests from activist groups in the San Luis Obispo area like Mothers for Peace and Greenpeace. Despite the calls for its closure, the plant generates $3 billion in total economic and is an economic necessity in the San Luis Obispo region. Diablo Canyon's operational license expires in 2024 and 2025, and has experienced trouble conducting regional safety and seismic tests.

San Onofre's closure in June was celebrated by environmental activist groups, but the plant is said to have helped reduce CO2 emissions by 8 million metric tons a year. In addition to the stated environmental impact, energy prices in Southern California have increased at a faster rate -- 12 percent more -- than the rest of the state.

Nuclear energy is a carbon-free source, and despite strong opposition, a record-high of Californians are concerned about climate change. The PPIC survey shows that 85 percent of all adults say the effects of climate change have either begun or will begin in the near future. PPIC also shows a majority across the political spectrum favor federal assistance in developing wind, solar, hydro energy technology.

Concerns about nuclear waste storage and operational safety linger in the minds of most Californians. The state has a moratorium on new nuclear projects until a permanent waste disposal method is developed. Until then, Diablo Canyon will remain to be the only operational nuclear plant in California.

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