It’s Wrong, It’s Dangerous, And…

Part III:  Let’s Head Further North

On Wednesday in Part II, I talked about the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, located on the coast about 25 miles north of San Diego County, where I live.

Also on the Pacific Coast, about 275 miles north of me, is this:

The Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant in Avila Beach, west of the city of San Luis Obispo.  It began operations in 1985 and is also an investor-owned utility, that utility being the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E).

Ugly, isn’t it?

I was unable to learn exactly how much nuclear waste is stored at Diablo Canyon, though this article from September 2022…

Said:

“Each of Diablo Canyon’s two reactors kick out about 80 tons of high-level radioactive waste when the old fuel rods are traded out for new ones every one to three years.”

How much nuclear waste is stored at Diablo Canyon?

How’s this:

Any amount is too much.

Six years ago, according to this article:

“In 2016, PG&E announced plans to close the nuclear plant, noting that the transition to renewable energy would make continued operations too costly.”

Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant is also located on the coast, also near a major earthquake fault line.

Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant is also the last nuclear plant in the state. 

And when the closing was announced in 2016, I cheered.

Prematurely, it turns out:

  • California Gov. Gavin Newsom is proposing to keep the two units of the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant online until 2029 and 2030 – as opposed to shuttering the facility entirely by 2025 – while also exploring the option of extending the plant’s life through 2035.
  • Proposed legislative language released Friday includes a $1.4 billion loan from the state’s general fund to Pacific Gas & Electric, the operator of the plant, to cover the cost of relicensing the 2.2 GW nuclear plant.  The legislation also outlines the terms of the loan agreement, including the circumstances under which the utility would repay the loan.

“Repay the loan”?

I’m doubtful.

But there’s no doubt here:

We taxpayers are on the hook for an additional $1.1 billion in federal funds:

It’s going to cost federal taxpayers more than a billion dollars to keep Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant operating – and producing more nuclear waste.

And it’s likely it will cost California taxpayers as well.

I was angry, and got angrier when I read this recent article in the San Luis Obispo Tribune:

“…as the U.S. turns to nuclear power to keep the lights on, will President Joe Biden and his successors be equally committed to securing a permanent home for the nuclear waste generated by commercial reactors?

“That was a promise first made to residents of San Luis Obispo County more than 50 years ago, when PG&E assured skeptical residents that they needn’t worry about spent nuclear fuel because the federal government would take care of it.”

I wonder if, 50 years ago, PG&E clued in the federal government that they – the federal government – were supposed to “take care of” the waste generated by Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant?

The article continues:

“The state of California must have seen all this coming.  In 1976, it imposed a moratorium on the construction of new nuclear plants until such time as the federal government makes good on its promise to accept the spent fuel.

“But where does that leave Californians living in the vicinity of Diablo Canyon, or near shuttered plants like San Onofre, located close to San Diego?

“They are exactly where they’ve been for the past five or six decades:  serving as de facto spent nuclear fuel storage sites, without ever having the benefit of the consent-based siting process.”

(In a consent-based siting process, communities are only considered as potential locations if they agree to “host” a storage facility that would accept spent fuel from commercial reactors.)

The article said plenty more that stoked my anger:

“There is no excuse for the lack of progress in the United States, especially given the renewed interest in keeping plants like Diablo Canyon running.

“Political leaders have been content to leave it to future generations to figure out what to do with spent fuel that will need to be kept safe for tens of thousands of years.

“It’s…unfair to future generations stuck with the consequences of yet another short-sighted decision by those who should know better.”

Part IV: Let’s Head Back South – in the Interest of Equal Time

If I sound locked-in to my opinion that the only good nuclear power plant is a closed nuclear power plant…

I am.

So I was stunned to read a recent editorial in the San Diego Union-Tribune that contradicted my locked-in opinion.

I’m a huge fan of the Union-Tribune, including their editorials.  To encounter an editorial that took a position I disagreed with – starting with the headline…

Here it is:

That headline – “Embrace Nuclear Power”?

“Are they kidding?” I thought.

No, they weren’t kidding.  The “CARBON” vs. “NUCLEAR” cartoon above the editorial attested to that.

So did the editorial’s content. 

And – shockingly – some of it actually made sense to me:

“…nuclear power is finally being accepted for the crucial role it can play in reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that put human civilization and survival at risk.”

“…ignoring the vast potential of nuclear power to respond to the climate emergency is no longer an option – as should be clear to anyone who believes the emergency is real.”

To the writer’s credit, they did acknowledge…

“…the failure of the U.S. government to find a long-term solution to the need to safely store nuclear waste.”

And then there was this:

“…nuclear plants have continued to be the nation’s largest source of relatively clean power, generating 19 percent of U.S. electricity in 2021.  Despite billions of dollars spent to expand solar and wind power in recent years, nuclear power supplies nearly as much as all the other zero-carbon sources of energy in the U.S. combined.”

“Combined”?

Wow.

Well.

This editorial prompted me to stop automatically disagreeing…start thinking…and even reconsidering…

I really was reconsidering…

Until…

I read this on November 25:

“The lunar base will likely be powered by nuclear energy, Chinese news website Caixin reported.”

“‘Nuclear energy can address the lunar station’s long-term, high-power energy needs,’ said Wu Weiran, chief designer of China’s lunar exploration programme.’”

87,000 metric tons of spent fuel on Earth now.

Nuclear power plants on the moon.

Nuclear waste on the moon.

If China puts a nuclear power plant on the moon, the U.S. is sure to do the same.

And who’s next?  Russia?  Iran?  And, and, and…

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