Nuclear Power

Will Environmentalists Force California to Choose "Dirty" Energy Over Clean Nuclear?

Closing the state's last nuclear power plant is anti-environmental and just plain stupid.



Activists want to shut down California's last nuclear reactors located at Diablo Canyon. However, these efforts are being opposed by other environmental activists who don't want the Golden State to forego the carbon-free energy generated by the plants. In January, a group of 50 prominent scientists, conservationists, and climate change activists issued an open letter urging Governor Jerry Brown and other state officials to keep the reactors operating.

The letter signed by Whole Earth Catalogue Founder, Stewart Brand and former NASA climate scientist James Hansen, among others, specifically noted, "Diablo Canyon provided 22 percent of all the clean energy electricity generated in California in 2014. If closed, it will likely be replaced by natural gas and California's carbon emissions will increase the equivalent of adding nearly two million cars to the road."

On Sunday, Breakthrough Institute co-founder Michael Shellenberger and former Missouri Botanical Gardens head Peter Raven, published an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle explaining that those people who are concerned about the future of climate change should be in favor of keeping the Diablo Canyon plants open. Why?

"Diablo Canyon produces twice as much power as all of California's solar panels, 24 percent more than all of its wind, and 40 times more than its largest solar farm," observed Shellenberger and Raven. "Also, Diablo Canyon provides power to 3 million Californians on a patch of land the size of three football fields. Achieving the equivalent from a solar farm would require 145 times more land; from wind, 500 times more."

Interestingly, an article today on the controversy in Mother Jones points out that California's "rate of reducing carbon emissions is slower than the national average—a 7.5 percent reduction since 2000, compared with 9.6 percent nationwide." Replacing Diablo Canyon reactors with natural gas plants would make that record even worse.

in the run-up to the Paris climate change conference, the godfather of climate change awareness, James Hansen and three other prominent climate researchers published a letter in The Guardian which stated:

To solve the climate problem, policy must be based on facts and not on prejudice. The climate system cares about greenhouse gas emissions – not about whether energy comes from renewable power or abundant nuclear power. Some have argued that it is feasible to meet all of our energy needs with renewables. The 100% renewable scenarios downplay or ignore the intermittency issue by making unrealistic technical assumptions, and can contain high levels of biomass and hydroelectric power at the expense of true sustainability. Large amounts of nuclear power would make it much easier for solar and wind to close the energy gap.

The climate issue is too important for us to delude ourselves with wishful thinking. Throwing tools such as nuclear out of the box constrains humanity's options and makes climate mitigation more likely to fail. We urge an all-of-the-above approach that includes increased investment in renewables combined with an accelerated deployment of new nuclear reactors.

Bemusingly, Hansen was denounced almost immediately as a strange new "denialist" in The Guardian for his support of nuclear power by climate change fundamentalist Naomi Oreskes:

There is also a new, strange form of denial that has appeared on the landscape of late, one that says that renewable sources can't meet our energy needs.

Oddly, some of these voices include climate scientists, who insist that we must now turn to wholesale expansion of nuclear power. Just this past week, as negotiators were closing in on the Paris agreement, four climate scientists held an off-site session insisting that the only way we can solve the coupled climate/energy problem is with a massive and immediate expansion of nuclear power. More than that, they are blaming environmentalists, suggesting that the opposition to nuclear power stands between all of us and a two-degree world.

Take that, you "renewables deniers!"

But seriously folks—if you think man-made climate change is a problem, then blindly opposing nuclear power as part of the solution is, well, counter-productive, if not just plain stupid.

For more background see my recent article, "Advanced Nuclear Power Resurgence in the U.S."