California Legislators Keep Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant Running

In the face of impending power blackouts, the California State Assembly and Senate did abrupt turns toward sanity and voted to extend the operating life of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. “This victory is of procivilization values such as love of mankind and reason over forces pro-scarcity.nihilism.” tweetedMichael Shellenberger founder of Environmental Progress (pro-nuclear activism group).

California’s Public Utility Commission decided 5-0 to close down the Diablo Canyon reactors in response to anti-nuclear activists. This law reverses that ill-advised decision, and prolongs their operating lives by at least five additional years. Diablo Canyon has enough power to provide electricity for three million Golden State households.

Growing dependence on unreliable wind and solar power generation led not only to rolling blackouts in California in 2020 but also increased the price of electricity for California’s consumers. For those concerned about climate change, it is counterproductive to close down Diablo Canyon’s reactors. A point made, according to the New York Times In a letter to California’s state legislatures, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein stated that “the alternative to closing the reactors at Diablo Canyon would most likely be more natural gas generation which would reverse progress in emissions reductions”

Many politicians, who supported the closing of their state’s nuclear power plants, apparently did not consider this. They include New York’s Democratic governor. Andrew Cuomo (Indian Point 2020), Massachusetts’ former Democratic governor. Michael Dukakis, Democratic Senator Ed Markey (Pilgrim 2019, and Vermont’s Democratic Governor. Peter Shumlin, Vermont Yankee 2014. It is not unexpected that the closure of these nuclear power plant has led to an increase in greenhouse gasses in these states.

Additionally, the advent of cheaper fracked natural gas and subsidized solar power have made it impossible for the overregulated nuclear energy industry to compete. Recognizing that both nuclear and renewable generation does not emit greenhouse gases, some states have adopted zero emissions credits to subsidize nuclear power generation as a way to level the playing field by countering the renewable energy credits their wind and solar power competitors receive. As I stated in 2016, however:

The environmentalists who oppose nuclear energy, which is safe and reliable, are foolish if man-made global heating is a problem. Just wish that nuke supporters would seek to reduce restrictions and not increase subsidies for the market.

Shellenberger makes also the obvious pointIf most electricity can be generated with safe and reliable nuclear energy, then there’s no need to build up renewable power. Shellenberger savors his victory at Diablo Canyon. observesAccording to him, we still have many nuclear power plants to conserve and many to build. This is the task of many lifetimes.