On-going rolling black-outs, the highest electrical rates in the country and an energy scenario in California that is indicative of a third-world country is what we all experience daily with our energy demands in California. (Actually, many third-world countries have more dependable electricity for its consumers.)
The bottom line, from any perspective, the direction of the last 20 years to only promote sustainable energy and discourage traditional sources of energy has been a tragic failure.
It’s fine to promote sustainable energy. In fact, I applaud our efforts to do so.
But to pursue policies that not only discourage, but actually remove from our inventories, traditional sources of energy because they leave a carbon footprint is sheer madness.
The time has come for us to call upon our lawmakers and insist on a policy that promotes sustainable energy integrated with a power supply of traditional forms of energy until sustainable energy is abundantly available and reliable.
At the forefront of these traditional forms of energy is nuclear energy. (Natural gas is also in abundant supply and is extremely clean. However, a different source of energy calls for a different op-ed for another day.)
Recently, U.S. Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette wrote an op-ed in the Orange County Register entitled “A Plan for Solving California’s Energy Problem.” That op-ed underscored the value of nuclear energy.
Secretary Brouillette stated, “Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, which provides nine percent of the state’s electricity, is slated for premature closure, taking a huge amount of reliable power off the grid. The plant still has years of useful life, and the state must find a way to keep it online if California leaders want to retain this source of clean, reliable electricity.”
I couldn’t agree more with the energy secretary.
In my opinion, not only should Diablo be allowed to operate for its normal life cycle, but we should be considering increasing the amount of nuclear generating facilities throughout California and the country. I will first address Diablo, located in San Luis Obispo County, and then the idea of increasing nuclear generating facilities throughout the country.
When it comes to Diablo, consider that, other than unreliable sources of sustainable energy (solar, wind and tidal), nuclear energy (Diablo) provides the smallest carbon footprint of any other source of energy used to create electricity.
Indeed, Diablo is such a good provider of non-carbon footprint electricity, the original co-founder of Greenpeace resigned over the organization’s failure to enthusiastically endorse nuclear energy.
Patrick Moore was a co-founder of Greenpeace. He resigned as a result of his belief that Greenpeace ignored science in its failure to acknowledge the benefits of nuclear energy in fighting global warming.
To truly fight global warming, in his opinion, it was only logical to support industrial countries promoting the use and development of nuclear power since sustainable energy is still decades away from being able to meet our energy demands. (I know you say it will be available tomorrow. Yet I remember when I was being told in the early 1970s that solar would be providing the majority of our electrical demands by the end of that decade. And that almost 50 years ago.)
So if we start from an acknowledgement that nuclear energy has a very little carbon footprint and it is one of the best forms of energy to be used to combat global warming, then the only rational reason to oppose it would be the argument that it is not safe.
Consequently, let’s explore the safety of nuclear power.
First, everything used by man has a risk. For instance, your electric batteries in your electric cars provide a huge environmental challenge.
As the former southwest administrator for the EPA, I can tell you that there is a huge discussion behind the scenes the public hasn’t heard yet regarding the amount of batteries that will have to be disposed of; that these batteries, when discarded, pose a major toxic waste challenge; and the fact we have no plan for disposal of these batteries. (I bet your car salesman didn’t discuss this with you when you bought your environmentally beneficial electric car.)
Consequently, we start with an understanding by reasonable people that everything has a risk.
The question then is the risk worth it with nuclear power? I say if you look at the record and facts, the answer couldn’t be any more clear: Yes.
We live on the Central Coast and have co-existed with Diablo for decades without a major incident. When there had been problems, the plant was shut down. Indeed, the protocols and regulatory oversight by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is substantial and so much more comprehensive than it was when the U.S. faced its last major incident at a nuclear power plant at 3 Mile Island in 1979, more than 50 years ago.
So why not allow Diablo to continue to operate and produce, under vigorous oversight and inspections, for the life the plant was designed for as opposed to removing a source of energy providing 9% of the state’s electricity?
As for more plants, I say we look to France, which is well known for its “green” commitment. Notwithstanding the “greenies” controlling policy in France they have allowed the construction of a new generation of nuclear power plants. These plants are much smaller and often serve several small communities.
In total, France derives 70.6% of the country’s total electrical production from nuclear energy. The decision by many in France was consistent with the direction taken by Greenpeace original co-founder Patrick Moore. Essentially, nuclear energy today is to be phased out when sustainable energy is reliable and abundantly available.
So you decide. Do you want a policy in California that will continue to realize on-going blackouts on a regular basis and the highest electrical rates in the country? If so, stay the course and your wish is guaranteed.
I think we deserve better and believe we should be at least as well off as the French, regarding our energy needs.
Indeed, Secretary Brouillette stated it well in his closing comments of his op-ed: “Californians deserve better than to suffer rolling blackouts and reduced energy access. The state should use America’s abundant energy resources and energy innovations to usher in a future of secure, reliable and clean energy.”
Mike Stoker is an environmental/land use/agricultural law attorney and has served on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors and as chairman of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board, California deputy secretary of state, the Southwest Region administrator for the EPA. He currently serves as the U.S. representative to the Western Interstate Energy & Nuclear Board.