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California, USA
California
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeCalifornia - Credit: Eric Pierce

Half-Lives takes place in Buenas Yerbas, a fictional district in California, the most populous state in the USA. California owes much of its present wealth to the nineteenth-century Gold Rush, thus providing a link with The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing.  

 

Location of nuclear power plants in the U.S.
Public DomainLocation of nuclear power plants in the U.S. - Credit: U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Most US nuclear power plants are found along the east coast, but Mitchell chooses to locate his fictional HYDRA on the west coast in California. Nuclear reactors require huge amounts of water as part of their cooling process, so they are often located along coastlines. Almost 20% of electricity in the US is produced by its 104 nuclear reactors. More are planned. (Click for more info.)

Diablo Canyon Power Plant on the coast of California
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeDiablo Canyon Power Plant on the coast of California - Credit: Doc Searls
Anti-nuclear protests in Harrisburg following the accident at Three Mile Island
Public DomainAnti-nuclear protests in Harrisburg following the accident at Three Mile Island

This section of the novel is set in the 1970s, by which time the anti-nuclear movement in the U.S. had built up a great deal of momentum. Those who protested against nuclear power plants generally did so for the following reasons: 1.) The release of heat into the environment would damage local ecosystems 2.) Fear of radioactive emissions during normal operations 3.) Fear of a major accident involving a massive release of radiation. Protestors succeeded in preventing Pacific Gas and Electric from building the first commercially viable nuclear power plant in the USA in the early sixties, but failed to prevent the construction of the Humboldt Bay power plant (see picture) located, like the HYDRA reactor, on the Californian coastline. Protests were triggered all over the world following the accidents at Chernobyl (see bookmark p108) as well as at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Pennsylvania (1979). The Fukushima Daiichi disaster of 2011 has further set back the prospects of the nuclear industry.