September 1, 2022 at 5:00 a.m., Santa Cruz Sentinel
By Ron Pomerantz
Steven Chu and Jacopo Buongiorno‘s recent Commentary (Sentinel Opinion, Aug. 11) was nothing more than a propaganda piece for the nuclear industry. Chu and Buongiorno want you to believe Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant is essential to supply electricity and the greenest of the green technologies. That’s worse than green washing, it’s fabrication with dangerous consequences.
There are many reasons Diablo’s operation must be shuttered by 2025.
Diablo’s technology and structures were dangerous from day one. The reactors were designed based on PG&E’s claim that there were no active earthquake faults within 20 miles, and we now know there are four faults nearby. There’s wear-and-tear, embrittlement, and deferred maintenance. The once-through cooling systems continues destruction of the marine environment by sucking-in then discharging 2.5 billion gallons per day of heated sea water, damaging the ecosystem. Hundreds of tons of high-level radioactive waste are onsite near San Luis Obispo.
Nuclear apologists seem fine with generating tons more radioactive waste that must be somehow safely stored for hundreds of thousands of years. Nuclear power plants have become weapons of war and terrorism. All of these problems lead to the potential for a catastrophic failure with large releases of radioactivity that can cause cancers and deaths for generations to come. Counting on luck that no earthquakes occur and safety systems are not breached is appalling and dreadful policy.
Gov. Gavin Newsom and fear mongers say there may be blackouts without Diablo Canyon and we’ll have to burn nasty carbon-based fuel in backup generators. Diablo was fully operational in 2020 when blackouts occurred. Diablo’s continued operation is clearly no guarantee to prevent blackouts. Additional wind, solar, and improved management would help.
The more likely problem of potential blackouts is from the distribution system. The antiquated, unreliable system is vulnerable to downed trees, lack of capacity, and fires. It makes no difference that Diablo is operational if the distribution system is faulty, no electrons can get to their destination. Where was the effort to upgrade the distribution system that was state mandated and PG&E promised?
The billions the Governor wants to give to PG&E to keep Diablo running must immediately be used for more renewables and storage and to reduce demand through conservation, efficiency improvements, and pricing structures. The technology, money, and the will all exist.
There is a legally binding 2016 agreement to close Diablo, along with SB1090 legislation, by 2025. Thoughtful implementation allotted nine years to phase-out Diablo Canyon’s operation and bring carbon-free and sustainable sources on-line and have fallen short. Rather than PG&E and state agencies being held accountable, PG&E would now be rewarded with billions for the failure.
Another significant issue is uranium fuel for nuclear reactors. Uranium is radioactive and harmful to all life. About 1/3 to 1/2 of the uranium fuel for U.S. reactors comes from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Russia. Can these governments be trusted to safely handle radioactive material? I would strongly urge our utility payments not support known repressive governments who violate human rights, oppressing their citizens and workers.
This debate is not merely about Diablo’s closure but the survival of the nuclear industry. Big money and big distortions are what Chu and Buongiorno’s piece was about. Get ready – you’ll be seeing lots more mumbo jumbo from proponents of keeping the dangerous and unneeded Diablo operating.
Gov. Newsom is putting the health and safety of Californians at risk for his personal presidential aspirations. Betting billions on Diablo’s 40-year old antiquated technology is an unacceptable gamble. Spending billions to keep a dangerous nuclear power plant operational is money down a rat hole, risks our economy, and even worse, could expose Central California to a devastating meltdown with radioactive releases.
Ron Pomerantz is a Santa Cruz resident.