When musician David Crosby took the microphone in front of a crowd at the Courtyard by Marriott San Luis Obispo, it wasn’t to belt out one of his famous songs.
“I want to talk about what I think is at stake here: human lives,” he said.
The celebrity was one of a multitude of people who attended a hearing to discuss the possible environmental impact of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. Crosby, who was among about 57 individuals who asked to make a public comment at the meeting, stood in staunch opposition to relicensing of the power plant, which the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is now considering.
“Mother Nature can kick our ass,” Crosby said. “There’s never been a building built that Mother Nature can’t knock down.”
The hearings, hosted by the NRC Aug. 5, were a chance for the public to raise environmental issues they wanted the agency to consider as part of the lengthy relicensing process.
“We’re asking the public to bring up issues they think we should consider while conducting the [environmental impact report],” said Michael Wintzel, a reprehensive from the NRC’s Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation.
Crosby was joined by several other speakers, some area residents, who raised often-cited concerns about Diablo Canyon, including its seismic safety, the impact of its cooling system on oceanic life, and the long-term storage of the nuclear waste created by the plant.
Those who spoke in favor of keeping the plant open included members of a group calling itself Californians For Green Nuclear Power. Sporting green shirts, members such as Gene Nelson, argued that the plant provided power to Californians without contributing to air pollution.
SLO County 4th District Supervisor Lynn Compton made similar statements when she spoke at the meeting.
“Nuclear energy produces more clean energy than any other source,” said Compton, who characterized the plant’s generated electricity as, clean, reliable, and emissions free.
That argument didn’t hold water for Sherry Lewis, a speaker at the meeting and member of the anti-nuclear group Mothers for Peace.
“What’s the air like in Fukashima?” Lewis asked during the hearing.
Despite the passion of speakers on both sides of the argument, an actual resolution to the issue is still years away. The NRC’s environmental impact report, a required part of the relicensing process, isn’t slated to be finalized until 2017. The federal relicensing process is also running parallel to state regulatory requirements.
The operating licenses for Diablo Canyon’s two reactors will expire in 2025.