California needs nuclear, solar, and wind power to beat climate change

California needs nuclear, solar, and wind power to beat climate change

Momentum is being built in San Luis Obispo County and across the state to expand operations at the beginning of 2024.

Governor Gavin Newsom is reconsidering shutting down the state's last nuclear facility and the largest single source of clean energy production. Senator Dianne Feinstein recently changed her mind about closing Diablo Canyon. Nationally, the US Department of Energy has proposed changes to allow the plant to qualify for federal assistance to stay in business.

So why the last shift? Time is running out to avoid the exacerbating effects of climate change, and Diablo Canyon could help accelerate our progress toward reducing emissions.

Research shows Diablo Canyon could enable the state to achieve a carbon-neutral electric grid ten years ahead of schedule.

Two studies, one by Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the other by the Brattle Group, found that the plant could significantly reduce carbon emissions and reliance on natural gas and enhance grid reliability while saving Californians billions on their energy bills.

However, some critics continue to argue that we can combat the crisis without Diablo Canyon — or that expanding operations would conflict with our state's renewable energy goals.

Even if the state builds solar power at twice the current rate, California will still depend on polluting gas-fired power generation and imported carbon-emitting fuels for the near term. These emissions will remain in the air and heat the atmosphere for centuries while retaining the Diablo Canyon, enabling the country to replace these sources with zero-carbon generation.

Others have expressed concerns about the handling and storing of spent fuel for Diablo Canyon. The volume of energy consumed is low and secured in dry drums that keep workers safe, prevent leaks, and withstand the effects of natural disasters. This technology isn't new and has been rigorously tested and used for decades at Diablo Canyon.

Diablo Canyon's seismic readiness and safety is another topic of misinformation from opponents. But careful analysis has shown that the plant is designed to withstand any seismic activities at the site. In a letter to Gov. Newsom, experts note that a comprehensive regulatory review found that Diablo can safely withstand even the most significant earthquakes and that no additional modifications are needed to protect against earthquakes or floods. Experts wrote that Diablo Canyon "does not pose a seismic hazard, and therefore the issue of earthquakes should be taken off the table."

As California prepares for prolonged drought, wildfires, and extreme weather, every moment counts in securing the state's clean energy future. Diablo Canyon must continue to produce carbon-neutral energy to benefit the state and the local San Luis Obispo community and work as an integral part of a comprehensive approach to building our low-carbon future.

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