LA Times flamed for advocating closure of California nuclear power plant, citing climate change fight

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Critics flamed the Los Angeles Times editorial board over the weekend for arguing that California's last remaining nuclear power plant needed to be closed in the name of doing even more to fight climate change

In a Sunday editorial, the board criticized those advocating for the plant to remain open despite the plant operator's 2018 decision to shut down, and implored California's state government to get other renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, in place to prevent an increase in the use of natural gas following the plant's closure.

"California is approaching an energy crossroads. In three years, its last nuclear plant will begin to power down and the state will lose its largest single source of emissions-free electricity," the board wrote. "If [regulators] don’t move more quickly to replace its electricity with renewable energy from wind, solar and geothermal, the void will almost certainly be filled by burning more natural gas."

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The board argued the state couldn't allow the plant's retirement to prolong reliance on natural gas or increase emissions, and it claimed that no assurances had yet been made that an uptick in the latter would be avoided. 

A flock of goats gather under a set of power lines above Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant at Avila Beach, California. A flock of goats gather under a set of power lines above Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant at Avila Beach, California June 22, 2005. These goats are used for weed and fire control under the power lines for Diablo Canyon power plant. Photograph taken June 22, 2005. REUTERS/Phil Klein

A flock of goats gather under a set of power lines above Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant at Avila Beach, California. A flock of goats gather under a set of power lines above Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant at Avila Beach, California June 22, 2005. These goats are used for weed and fire control under the power lines for Diablo Canyon power plant. Photograph taken June 22, 2005. REUTERS/Phil Klein (REUTERS/Phil Klein)

It noted that those lack of assurances had led to the formation of a campaign to keep the plant open, with such proponents arguing that doing so "would reduce climate pollution, bolster grid reliability and buy time during a crucial period in the state’s transition toward solar, wind and other renewable energy sources."

The board added the Biden administration had been receptive to suggestions for California to keep the facility open. 

"But the idea is misguided, and at this point remains largely divorced from reality," the board wrote. "The plant’s closure should instead serve as an impetus for California do more to accelerate the shift to renewable energy and set a realistic course to meet the state’s target of getting 100% of its electricity from carbon-free sources by 2045."

"Those floating the idea of keeping Diablo Canyon open seem to ignore many practical considerations, including how to address seismic risks, the ecological harm of using seawater for cooling, and what to do with spent nuclear fuel," it added. 

The board argued that responsibly replacing the plant would require faster deployment of wind and solar energy sources, as well as batteries to store energy and upgrades to transmission lines. 

Flames burn up a tree as part of the Windy Fire in the Trail of 100 Giants grove in Sequoia National Forest, Calif., on Sept. 19, 2021. Sequoia National Park says lightning-sparked wildfires in the past two years have killed a minimum of nearly 10,000 giant sequoia trees in California. The estimate released Friday, Nov. 19, 2021, accounts for 13% to 19% of the native sequoias that are the largest trees on Earth. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

Flames burn up a tree as part of the Windy Fire in the Trail of 100 Giants grove in Sequoia National Forest, Calif., on Sept. 19, 2021. Sequoia National Park says lightning-sparked wildfires in the past two years have killed a minimum of nearly 10,000 giant sequoia trees in California. The estimate released Friday, Nov. 19, 2021, accounts for 13% to 19% of the native sequoias that are the largest trees on Earth. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File) (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

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"Regulators have had years to prepare for Diablo’s retirement and should not leave things to chance," the board wrote. "Gov. Gavin Newsom and the incoming PUC president he recently named, Alice Reynolds, need to do more to get renewable energy sources operating as quickly as possible, and should carefully track them and impose requirements that they reduce climate pollution."

"It’s our planet at stake, and California’s leaders must ensure the sunset of nuclear power is not followed by a damaging rise in greenhouse gases," it added.

Critics took to social media to blast the board, with some arguing that being against nuclear power meant they weren't serious about fighting climate change, and others suggesting that it was denying science to argue against the use of nuclear power to fight climate change.

Storm clouds from Tropical Storm Nicholas are seen behind homes of the vanishing Native American community of Isle de Jean Charles, La., which were destroyed by Hurricane Ida, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021. 

Storm clouds from Tropical Storm Nicholas are seen behind homes of the vanishing Native American community of Isle de Jean Charles, La., which were destroyed by Hurricane Ida, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021.  (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa, argued that there wasn't actually a better way to fight climate change as the board suggested. She stated that California was already having energy shortages, and therefore energy demands would only increase after the plant's closure. She added that "newer generation small nuclear reactors" could fill the void.

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"The real mystery is why we even acknowledge the scientific opinions of a group of people whose professional qualifications are limited solely to criticizing solutions instead of doing actual work to solve problems," another critic wrote.

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