Diablo Power Plant Controversy

By Carter Cormier

California’s last remaining nuclear power plant contains two units that were set for closure in 2024 and 2025 respectively. California’s Governor Gavin Newsom extended these lifetimes by 5 years and loaned 1.4 billion to help this along.  One regional director with the Union of Concerned Scientists, Juliet Christian-Smith, stated “This last-minute legislation would give new life to an aging nuclear power plant that is badly in need of seismic upgrades and other repairs to ensure safe operation.” Other lawmakers argue “the alternative to the closure of the reactors at Diablo Canyon will most likely be additional natural gas generation, which would reverse progress on emissions reductions.” The substitute to the power plant would be environmentally harmful energy production such as geothermal or gas power. PG&E says that it’s a clean, reliable, renewable source of energy. “Low-cost, carbon-free electricity for more than three million people.” The plant produces more energy than other forms of renewable energy like wind or solar power. The plant also takes up very little space compared to wind and solar energy. The number of solar panels or wind turbines required to match the energy output of a nuclear power plant is absurd. Despite the positive effects on energy output, the plant reflects poorly on the marine environment. San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace commissioned San Diego-based Powers Engineering to take a closer look at the plant’s environmental impact on the surrounding waters. The plant’s cooling system, termed a “once-through cooling system” or OTC cycles through around 2.5 billion pounds of water per day. Diablo returns that water 20 degrees hotter than it went in. The study estimates that more than a billion fish die annually to the so preconceived “clean” energy source. This does not discount the massive amounts of energy produced by the plant, it merely exposes a side effect hidden and ignored by PG&E—the company responsible for building and maintaining the plant.