Occupy, Environmentalists Say No to Nukes

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Suzanne Stathatos
San Franciscans found yet another reason to protest PG&E.

Yesterday, on the 67th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, members of OccupySF Environmental Justice Working Group, No Nukes Action, and Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice gathered in front of the Japanese Consulate and marched to PG&E's headquarters to protest nuclear power plants in Japan and California.

At the Japanese Consulate, protesters gathered to urge the Japanese government to halt its restarting of the country's reactors. After singing and dancing to a song of resistance and chanting anti-nuclear slogans, protesters presented the consulate with a petition bearing more than 1,000 signatures to end Japanese nuclear power.

Japan recently reopened Reactor 4 at Fukushima, which melted down following a tsunami and earthquake in March 2011. This nuclear meltdown contaminated "thousands of people as well as the fish we eat here in California," the protest group said in a written statement.
California's Pacific Ocean-sharing neighbor has put environmentalists here on high alert. In front of PG&E, protesters demanded the closure of all nuclear power plants in California, noting California's inclination for earthquakes as a danger.

"These plants which are built on faults by the ocean could spread radiation so far that evacuation would be required within at least a 60-mile radius and could be uninhabitable for thousands of years," their statement said. "The government is not prepared for nuclear disaster."

California currently has two power plants: one in San Onofre, which was shut down, and an operating plant in Diablo Canyon. In January of this year, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission ordered the San Onofre plant to stay offline while they investigated tubing wear issues, according to the California Energy Commission.

PG&E owns the Diablo Canyon plant, and Southern California Edison Co. controls the San Onofre plant.

"PG&E is demanding that the rate-payers of California spend $60 million to fund earthquake studies to find out if these plants are in danger," said Steve Zeltzer, who spoke on behalf of No Nuke Actions. He asserted that this expenditure was unnecessary, as "we know nuclear power is a dangerous energy."

In the eyes of the protesters, nuclear power plants are not being shut down because "our government minimizes the threat of radioactive contamination from the corporations that fund their elections," the groups' written statement said. Zeltzer also noted the electrical companies' "monopolistic" behavior.

"PG&E and Southern California Edison are private entities. They make more money by selling more electricity," Zeltzer said. "As long as you have private companies running these nuclear plants, they will never be shut down."

The gas and electric giant "understood that some of [its] customers have concerns about nuclear energy, and [the company] respect[s]  their views," PG&E spokesperson Blair Jones told SF Weekly.

That said, PG&E argued that Diablo Canyon is a "safe, reliable source of power that produces clean electricity for over 3 million California residents." The energy company also has on-site regulatory inspectors to quell safety concerns.

These plants play a "crucial component in reducing greenhouse gases," Jones added.

There are currently 54 nuclear power plants in Japan and 104 in the United States, according to Zeltzer.

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