Academics and activists worried about global warming are begging California Gov. Jerry Brown to save the state’s last nuclear power plant.
The group argues California can’t meet its global warming goals without the plant, but the push to save it may spark conflict with environmentalists who have opposed nuclear power for years.
“We are writing as scientists, conservationists, and philanthropists to urge you to do everything in your powers to ensure that California’s last nuclear power plant, Diablo Canyon Power Plant, is relicensed,” said an open letter to Brown. “Diablo Canyon provided 22 percent of all the clean energy electricity generated in California in 2014.”
The open letter was signed by climate scientists and environmental activist including James Hansen of Columbia University, Kerry Emanuel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker. The letter asks the governor to renew the reactor’s operating license, which begins expiring in 2024, and calls for a renewed operating license that could keep the plant running into the 2040s.
Both The Sierra Club and Friends of The Earth allege the California nuclear plant is vulnerable to earthquakes, but both groups oppose virtually all uses of nuclear power regardless of earthquakes.
The Sierra Club opposes all nuclear power because it contributes to “energy over-use and unnecessary economic growth.” While Friends of The Earth opposes the construction of all nuclear reactors. Both groups have heavily lobbied against nuclear power in an attempt to increase the cost of building nuclear reactors and create artificial delays in nuclear construction.
“As the global campaign against climate change has gathered steam in recent years, old controversies surrounding nuclear energy have been re-ignited. For all their supposed faults—radioactive waste, links to the Cold War arms race, the specter of a catastrophic meltdown—nuclear plants have the benefit of producing huge amounts of electricity with zero greenhouse gas emissions,” the progressive magazine Mother Jones wrote Wednesday about the attempt to save the reactor.
Mother Jones correctly acknowledges that for the world to limit global warming to acceptable levels, nuclear power needs to increase from 11 percent of global energy production to 16 percent by 2030, according to analysis by the International Energy Agency. A single nuclear reactor can prevent 3.1 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.
The Mother Jones article highlights the growing divided between environmentalists on nuclear power. Pro-nuclear environmental think tanks, such as the Breakthrough Institute, believe that nuclear power is imperative to both economic growth and solving global warming. The Breakthrough Institute believes that “anyone truly concerned about climate change will need to reconsider their opposition to nuclear. It is the best chance we have to make big reductions in carbon emissions quickly.”
Nuclear plants are more environmentally friendly in many respects than wind or solar plants as they take up far less space and don’t require new development.
Despite environmental opposition, most scientists and engineers agree nuclear power is actually great for the environment. The Economist calls nuclear energy “the most cost-effective zero-emission technology.” The Wall Street Journal agrees that “[if] the world intends to address the threat of global warming and still satisfy its growing appetite for electricity, it needs an ambitious expansion of nuclear power.”
California already has some of the most expensive electricity in the country due to green energy mandates.
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