Democrats are slowly coming around to nuclear power

(AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

Out on California’s central coast, you will find the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. It came online in 1985 and has been producing clean electrical energy ever since without ever experiencing a significant safety failure. It is the last nuclear power plant in operation in California thanks to prolonged efforts by liberals to do away with “dangerous” or “dirty” forms of energy generation. Succumbing to pressure from politicians who insisted on converting the state to solar and wind energy, Diablo filed a plan in 2018 to retire the plant and it’s currently scheduled to close in in 2025.

But now it appears that something has started to change. Facing critical energy shortages and rolling blackouts, a new plan has been proposed that would keep Diablo open for at least another decade. The light seemed to begin dawning on California’s elected officials after a new study from Stanford University showed what the state’s energy situation, as well as its clean energy goals would look like in fifteen years with and without Diablo. The picture being painted is far different than what many anti-nuclear activists wanted to hear. (The Economist)

The Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant lies about 200 miles north of Los Angeles on California’s central coast. Its twin reactors sit between the Pacific Ocean on one side and emerald hills on the other. The Golden State’s only remaining nuclear plant provides nearly 9% of its electricity generation, and accounts for 15% of its clean electricity production. Yet despite California’s aggressive climate goals and a national push to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, Diablo Canyon is set to close down by 2025. A new report from researchers at Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) reveals just how detrimental that would be…

These three trends led researchers to reopen the file on Diablo Canyon, and ask how keeping the plant running might change California’s energy outlook. They found that doing so to 2035, ten years past its current operating license as issued by the NRC, would cut emissions, bolster the reliability of the grid and save the state $2.6bn. The authors’ analysis shows that Diablo’s continued operation would reduce the carbon emissions from power generation by 11% each year from 2017 levels. And unlike wind and solar power, nuclear energy can provide a stable source of electricity unaffected by changes in weather.

Diablo may be the only nuke plant left in California, but it supplies an amazing 9% of the state’s total electric power. It also supplies 15% of what activists measure as “clean” energy since it produces no greenhouse gases of any sort. The results of the Sanford study show that keeping Diablo online would lower carbon emissions massively while making the power grid significantly more reliable than it would be without it.

The “trends” mentioned in the excerpt above that led to these conclusions involve three different factors. First, the state passed SB100, a law that mandates that California must achieve 100% clean-power generation by 2045. Without nuclear energy, they aren’t even going to come close with only wind and solar.

Second, the other source of clean electricity the state has is hydroelectric. But they’re now in the midst of a prolonged drought. The water supplies that were dammed to produce energy are rapidly drying up, and with them, another source of carbon-free energy. And finally, the ongoing heatwave has spurred massive surges in demand (largely for air conditioning) at a time when other generation sources are failing. Without nuclear energy, all of the best-laid plans of the environmentalists will be going up in smoke, both literally and figuratively.

Opponents argue that Diablo sits never several fault lines and fear that a massive earthquake could lead to a meltdown. But most of California sits on fault lines and there have been plenty of quakes in the region since the plant went into operation. Sure, it’s possible that a sufficiently large quake or tsunami could lead to problems, but most of the region would probably be turned into rubble along with it.

There were issues with nuclear power in the very early days, but technology has come a very long way since then. New small module reactor designs are now revolutionizing how we generate nuclear energy and vastly reducing the amount of nuclear fuel waste we have to deal with. And if your primary concern is reducing the state’s carbon footprint, nuclear power plants give off nothing but warm water and a bit of steam from the cooling towers. (And let’s face it, California could use a lot more water in the atmosphere these days anyway.)

Democrats in California seem to slowly be coming to the realization that they are cutting their own throats and nuclear power is probably one of their only hopes for a clean power future. They need to be building more nuke plants, not retiring the last one they have. Though I would agree that they might want to put the newer, smaller ones as far away from the fault lines as they can manage to place them. If they had seven more plants online in the near future, they could meet all of their energy needs when combined with the meager amount of juice they can produce from solar and wind. And the nuke plants work at night and when the wind doesn’t blow. Just something to think about, Californians.