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NUCLEAR POWER PLANT IN CALIFORNIA BECOMES 1ST TO BE VOTED CLOSED

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The troubled Rancho Seco nuclear power plant is the first in the nation to be shut down by a vote of the people.

With 94 percent of the vote counted early Wednesday, a ballot measure to prolong the life of the oft-closed plant was losing by 53.4 percent to 46.6. The vote on Measure K on the Sacramento County ballot was 105,656 "no" to 92,304 "yes."The count included absentee ballots and returns from 478 of the region's 508 voting stations.

The measure laid before about 531,000 registered voters in the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, best known in California by its initials of SMUD, called for a flat yes or no decision on whether to keep the plant running or close it for good.

"If the present voting trend continues, the SMUD board will close the plant," said board president Joe Buonaiuto, who favored continued operation. "After the cheering is over, the city will reap the economic whirlwind. We have made contingency plans. It won't be the evacuation of Saigon. It will be an orderly event."

Board member Ed Smeloff, who had crusaded for closing Rancho Seco for several years, claimed victory before cheering supporters at a Sacramento restaurant.

The board scheduled a meeting Thursday to act on the results of the election.

It was the 15th election in the United States in the past 13 years on the issue of closing or restricting the use of nuclear power plants.

The voters are residents of the Sacramento region's citizen-owned electric power district, which serves about 1.5 million people in an 870 square-mile area in Sacramento and its environs.

Officials of the district already have negotiated deals with the stockholder-owned Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and Southern California Edison to make up power lost if Rancho Seco closes.

The facility, whose twin brick towers loom over a plain 25 miles southeast of the state capital, has a history of more than 100 unplanned shutdowns.