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Safe, clean, and reliable

What's your Diablo backup plan if renewable energy can't fit our energy needs?

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Just as there is no scary monster in your closet or under the bed, there is no scary power plant on the cliffs 7 miles north of Avila Beach 85 feet above sea level.

Too much unabated misinformation has been spread about Diablo Canyon for more than 40 years. Hopefully the following will negate much of that misinformation. Diablo Canyon has been operating safely for more than 30 years, creating safe, clean, base load power. There are no dirty emissions released into the air that can spread freely into our atmosphere.

As a tour guide at the power plant for 23 years, having led tours for hundreds of visitors and given talks to many groups, I know there is a silent majority of locals and people from elsewhere who support Diablo Canyon and nuclear power. Those who are opposed to closing Diablo Canyon, please email your state representatives and let them know.

I have talked to many skilled outage workers at the plant from other states and even locals who travel from plant to plant performing specialized maintenance work. They rave about how clean, carefully, and expertly managed the power plant is. Recently, at our local SLO farmers' market, during the latest outage, one of the workers from Texas told me how he heard for many years what a great plant Diablo Canyon is and how others who had experience working there raved about it. He was excited to finally experience for himself what others had said was true.

Regular, intense inspections at Diablo Canyon are required and accomplished by three separate groups. The three groups include the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission), INPO (Institute of Nuclear Power Operation) and the DCISC (Diablo Canyon Independent Safety Committee). Diablo Canyon is the only nuclear power plant in the USA to have three inspection groups. The DCISC is a group of highly qualified, experienced experts in nuclear and even seismic issues who are appointed by the California Energy Commission, the governor, and the lieutenant governor. Look up dcisc.org. Diablo Canyon also has its own quality assurance and quality control group that keeps a close watchful eye on all the work involved in keeping the plant clean and safe. There is no reason to conclude that there are any safety issues at the power plant.

There is no other industry that knows exactly where and how their entire byproduct is safely stored under strict regulations and continued inspections. The plant has no safety issues with storing used nuclear fuel. In all the years that nuclear power has been used commercially or by the military, there has never been any incidents of radiation escaping storage or during transportation. The U.S. military has transported used nuclear fuel to Washington state and Idaho safely for years.

More than 400 nuclear power plants in the world maintain incredible safety records. Only three accidents have occurred at nuclear power plants, and all could have been avoided. The first was at Three Mile Island in 1979 near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. A woman from Harrisburg toured Diablo, and she said the worst thing about Three Mile Island was the media spreading unsubstantiated fear. Although Unit 1 at Three Mile Island is permanently shut down, the nuclear industry learned and implemented many safety features such as requiring all nuclear plants to have their own training simulator—plus operator training was increased and emergency planning was expanded.

Chernobyl had no containment structures to protect the nuclear cycle. The control room operators were conducting a late night unapproved test in the control room, which led to a steam explosion, followed by a chemical explosion that spread the unprotected nuclear system into the open. A Chernobyl type reactor would have never been allowed in the U.S.

The Fukushima nuclear power plant was severely damaged by being unprepared to safely withstand a huge wall of water. The plant shut down after the earthquake, as designed, but having disregarded advice to build the plant farther from the ocean's edge and failure to build a substantial wall to abate a tsunami led to extreme damage. Clearly, the safety culture and management at Fukushima was undeniably weak and unprepared. Onagawa, a nuclear power plant 75 miles distant from Fukushima, closer to the earthquake epicenter, survived the tsunami with only minor damage. Onagawa's local residents flocked to the plant and were given refuge. Why did Onagawa survive the tsunami? Because they were prepared. The power plant was built on higher ground, with a wall in front of the plant that was built to withstand the onslaught of a tsunami. The safety culture at Onagawa was much stronger.

The only comparison between Diablo Canyon and Fukushima is they are both nuclear power plants.

Closing Diablo Canyon would be a dire mistake to our economy, to availability of clean reliable power, and it would be environmental hypocrisy. There are no facts or credible evidence available that renewables will be ready by 2025 to replace the power lost by closing the plant. Plans to build a gas fired fossil fuel plant on the beach in Oxnard have been met with much concern. The locals in that area vehemently oppose it. And it's no wonder there are concerns. It would increase, not diminish, the harmful emissions being released into the atmosphere. Could there be doubts that there may not be enough power available when power from intermittent renewables is not accessible?

The idea of clean renewable energy is great for helping combat climate change, but it isn't the total answer. No source of energy is free of concerns. What needs to be known about renewables, wind, and solar is that they have their own negatives, including the use of hazardous chemicals, and yes there is hazardous waste involved. Plus each requires huge areas of land, which only adds to environmental issues.

There needs to be a balance of energy sources to maintain a stable grid. Closing Diablo Canyon and expecting to rely on renewables is certainly questionable. If renewables are not available, the burning of dirty, unhealthy fossil fuels will be the backup, which is bad for our health, our environment, and for future generations. Δ

Ellie Ripley from Arroyo Grande is a fan of nuclear energy and a fan of Diablo. Send comments through the editor at clanham@newtimesslo.com or send a letter to the editor for publication by emailing letters@newtimesslo.com.

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