'We dodged a bullet' no nuclear power plant for Oregon

'We dodged a bullet' no nuclear power plant for Oregon

 

 a 1,000 megawatt atomic plant, and from early planning drawings, what appeared to be a nuclear coast resort.  Coburg, Poodle Creek near Noti and at least one site along the Siuslaw river near Cushman were also in the mix.

12 miles north of Florence, Big Creek was considered a front runner because EWEB engineers preferred an ocean water location for the plant, but this site along with all the others, became a moot point.

After that 1968 election, some folks started to second guess the decision.

John Reynolds, former EWEB Commissioner tells KVAL,"It started raising questions about nuclear waste disposal and did we need that much power."

Out of the seeds of caution sprouted the Eugene Future Power Committee.

"Really very cagey individuals who came together in the Eugene Future Power Committee and decided on a strategy," adds Dr. Daniel Pope, University of Oregon history professor.

The committee pushed for a Eugene ballot measure in 1970...not to kill the project, but postpone it 4 years for study.  Measure 52 passed by less than 900 votes.  The vote not only stopped the atomic plant, Lance Robertson says it changed EWEB.

"It really set us on a course for looking at alternatives to just building new power plants all the time," says Robertson.  A wave of conservation programs began in the late 1970's.

Given the plant's coast location and the big Cascadia Fault offshore, apparently scant attention was paid to earthquake danger.

"Well, 1970 is a long time ago, I don't remember that being a big issue," Reynolds explains.

If it wasn't real in 1970, it proved to be so for Japan in March, as the Fukishima disaster continues to make headlines.  So did a citizens committee and a vote 40 years ago, help us avoid a similar fate?

Dr. Pope says a former EWEB general manager told him, "He said the future power committee 'Saved our butt,' as he put it, and I think that was correct.  We dodged a bullet."

The vote to halt the project passed by the narrowest of margins, 52 percent to 48 percent.

FLORENCE, Ore. - The Oregon Coast, a landscape shaped over the centuries by natural forces and crashing waves, but about 40 years ago, the power of nature and the power of atomic energy almost came crashing together, near Florence.

"Well--it had been authorized by the voters in 1968," says Lance Robertson, EWEB Public Affairs Director.

It was a different time.  Inflated power forecasts prompted the B.P.A. to declare 20 nuclear power plants would be needed in the Northwest by 1990.  The Eugene Water and Electric Board wanted a piece of the action.  The utility wanted to build