Senate committee balks at banning houses on old nuclear meltdown sites

By Jim Wasserman The Associated Press
Thursday April 04, 2002

SACRAMENTO — Legislation that would forever ban Ventura County from approving houses on 2,800 acres surrounding an old nuclear meltdown site suffered a temporary setback Wednesday. 

The Senate Local Government Committee balked at the idea, part of a larger bill on contamination cleanup standards proposed by Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica. Kuehl promised to return with changes, addressing concerns that the idea is too restrictive and affects too much land. 

Kuehl wants the state to block Ventura County’s land-use authority on the site of a 1959 partial nuclear meltdown, and that of other cities and counties on future meltdown sites. She cited the state’s similar land-use authority over properties fronting San Francisco Bay, the Lake Tahoe Basin and the 1,100 mile California coastline. 

“Local zoning isn’t capable of dealing with something like a nuclear meltdown,” Kuehl said. 

The site is still contaminated with radiation and undergoing cleanup. 

The Santa Susana Field Laboratory near the Ventura and Los Angeles County lines, ran 10 nuclear reactors from the 1950s to the 1980s for Atomics International, Rocketdyne International Corp. and Boeing Corp. Though a Ventura County voter initiative blocks development on the site before 2020 and the county’s general plan calls for open space, current zoning allows homes on five-acre lots. 

Kuehl fears growth pressures could local officials to approve housing, schools and day care centers on the site. Boeing Controller Jack Bradley said the company is restoring the land to federal residential standards in hopes of selling it. 

“Our concern is the flexibility of the property,” Bradley said. “We want to clean it up for the highest and best use.” He also criticized a ban on thousands of surrounding acres, far from the actual meltdown site. 

Attorney Richard Locke of PG&E said the bill could block the company from developing 14,000 acres around its 750-acre Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant in San Luis Obispo County. 

Ventura County issued no position on the bill. But a letter from County Supervisor Judy Mikels expressed concerns about the state usurping local decision-making. 


On the Net: 

Read S.B 1444 at www.senate.ca.gov.