The fate of California’s Diablo Canyon Power Plant is in the balance as legislators are set to vote whether or not to extend its operational life by an additional five years.
The proposal authored by Democratic state governor Gavin Newsom, extending the operability of Diablo Canyon would prevent blackouts throughout the state and also advance its goals for carbon neutrality and the more widespread use of renewable power sources.
Extending Diablo Canyon’s lifespan is seen as a timely move for the nuclear energy sector which is keen on increasing awareness regarding the feasibility of nuclear power as a carbon-free and renewable energy source, particularly given the increased drive to fight climate change.
But critics have also been quick to point out that extending the lifespan of the said power plant means negating previous legislation regarding the closure of California’s last operating nuclear facilities by 2025.
A potent potential symbol
The possible approval of the Diablo Canyon proposal would be a symbolic act in the state which has long been considered the cradle of modern environmentalism and conservation.
Likewise, it would signify the acceptance of nuclear power as a key element of strategies meant to ensure the constant generation of electricity within the region and, regardless of any highly radioactive waste it generates, an active move to keep environmental warming at bay.
According to a letter sent to lawmakers by the American Nuclear Society, keeping Diablo Canyon operational should seriously be considered if California is to meet its long-term requirements for electric reliability as well as its environmental and carbon neutrality goals.
An act of recklessness
For their part, however, environmentalists are strongly vetoing the vote for Diablo Canyon.
Friends of the Earth, an organization that was among those who agreed to close down the plant back in 2016, launched a digital offensive against the extension to drum up public support.
According to a statement from group president Erich Pica, Newsom’s proposal is unbelievably reckless. It will do the state more harm than good – a view shared by nonprofit advocacy The Environmental Group, which warned the public that the use of nuclear power would lead to greater taxation.
Newsom, for his part, has not been deterred by the opposition. He explained that extending the operability of Diablo Canyon should be seen as an active part of the transition from fossil fuels and is a necessary short-term measure to attain California’s climate change goals.