California shouldn't extend the life of its last nuclear plant': Is LA times op-ed right?

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Fact Box

  • On December 12, 2021, the LA Times released “Editorial: No, California shouldn’t extend the life of its last nuclear plant. There are better ways to fight climate change” responding to officials pushing for the extension of Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant, saying, “The plant’s closure should instead serve as an impetus for California do more to accelerate the shift to renewable energy and set a realistic course to meet the state’s target of getting 100% of its electricity from carbon-free sources by 2045.”
  • The Diablo Canyon Power Plant has been in operation since 1985 and is licensed until 2025. Its two Westinghouse Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR) units produce 18,000 gigawatt-hours of electricity per year which avoids using “6 to 7 millions tons” of greenhouse gases per year. 
  • In 2020, California generated 272,576 gigawatt-hours, and non-C02 emitting electric generation accounted for 51% of its in-state generation. California generated 41.92% of all US residential solar energy in 2020.
  • The California Air Resources Board reported that greenhouse gas emissions were below 1990 levels, but “flat” in comparison with 2017.
  • According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, in the United States greenhouse gas emissions (6,558 million metric tons) were 13% below 2005 levels, and a deduction of 1.7% from 2018.

Andrew (Yes)

In its opening line, “California is approaching an energy crossroads,” the LA Times correctly announces that it is time for a change. California has set an ambitious target of generating one hundred percent of its energy from entirely renewable sources by 2045. While this may seem far into the future, the reality is that the state needs to act aggressively to achieve its goal. The LA Times is right that it is time for a clean break with nuclear energy to focus genuinely on truly renewable sources.

Closing this plant in favor of renewable sources is important not only for California but for the entire world. California has frequently been the leading edge, setting standards for fuel economy, organic produce, and other important health issues. By committing to renewables, and following through, even when it is difficult, California will be demonstrating to the rest of the nation and indeed the world that it is possible to make tough decisions to move toward green energy sources. This is important because California has a large and diverse economy and will be able to demonstrate that it is possible to ensure reliable and affordable transmission to power itself.

Those opposing the closure of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant claim its closure will lead to an increase in carbon-based energy generation in the short or medium term. This certainly does not need to be the case, as the state has plenty of time to plan for and manage the transition. It is simply more important to make big and symbolic gestures such as closing this plant than to be paralyzed by fear of a hypothetical carbon increase. 


Curtice (No)

The Los Angeles Times is all in on California powering down Diablo Canyon, its last nuclear power plant. It said as much and more in a recent editorial. Yet, doing so will almost certainly increase the state’s reliance on burning natural gas, which, as the Times editorial states, increased last year to account for nearly half of California’s in-state electricity generation.

California already has trouble managing its energy. It has a history of poor energy reliability, with rolling blackouts occurring nearly every year. Add to that soaring energy costs for its residents, and this hardly seems like a good time to shut down what is a safe, effective, powerful, and reliable source of energy not just for the state but also for the nation.

But unlike the gas-fired plants, nuclear plants, such as the Diablo Canyon plant, do not produce greenhouse gases. Nuclear power does not contribute to global warming. If one is serious, which California certainly is not, about reducing dependence on fossil fuels and reducing greenhouse gases, few things have been proven to be as clean and reliable as nuclear energy. If environmental activists are serious about protecting the climate, they should be advocating increasing clean nuclear energy, not eradicating it. 

If California or anyone else, for that matter, wants to shut down its nuclear reactors, it ought to wait until we can get to fusion nuclear reactors. It works pretty well for the sun. Electricity generated through fusion has no emissions, minimal waste, and there is no risk of Chernobyl-like meltdowns. The fuel it produces can be cheap and plentiful. If the climate activists allowed this technology to develop further, the earth’s clean and affordable energy problems would be solved.

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