Nuclear Power and Environmental Justice in California

New Report by EHJ

Nuclear Power and Environmental Justice in California - pdf

Nuclear Power and Environmental Justice in California - web page

The closure of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) and the planned closure of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant (DCNPP) represent an environmental injustice because these actions will increase air pollution in vulnerable communities and nonattainment areas.  For the purposes of this report, environmental justice areas are all areas that are in nonattainment for smog.

The single most valuable tool that vulnerable environmental justice communities have to mitigate the negative health effects of air pollution is nuclear power.  In California, if nuclear plants could be combined with a significant number of electric vehicles, mitigation of smog would be a real possibility.  These plants do not emit smog-forming or greenhouse gases. 

About 1,341 people are estimated to die each year because of bad air in the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale area.  That makes the L.A. area’s air quality the deadliest in the nation.  Statewide annual statistics include: 5,400 premature deaths, 2,400 hospitalizations, 140,000 asthma and lower respiratory symptoms, 980,000 lost work days, and 5,000,000 minor restricted activity days. 

A major environmental justice area is California’s Central Valley (San Joaquin Valley).  The Valley is also one of the most polluted regions in the state and country.  Of the ten worst cities, five are located in California’s Central Valley. The Central Valley, anchored by Fresno, Bakersfield, and Modesto, is the farming center of the state and the country. Its eight counties grow about half of the nation’s fruits and vegetables. This fact is largely due to its wide valley that also causes persistent problems with air pollution.  The Valley does not currently meet health-based standards set by the United States Environmental Protection Agency for ozone and particulate matter.