Diablo Canyon Power Plant | Josh Ernstrom

Diablo Canyon Power Plant (DCPP) near San Luis Obispo is like the “Energizer Bunny” – it just keeps running. California’s huge economy now consumes about a billion kilowatt-hours each day. California’s daily power needs are highest in the late summer. Most Californians away from the coast now depend on air conditioning to keep cool.

DCPP is California’s largest generator by far. According the U.S. Energy Information Administration, DCPP ran 24/7 at full power during the summer of 2021. The plant typically generates the equivalent of five Hoover Dams each year. DCPP usually undercuts the cost of running a California power plant with natural gas.

The emission-free plant is incredibly rugged. DCPP ran at full power during the San Simeon Earthquake on December 22, 2003. This earthquake had a magnitude of 6.6. The earthquake killed two in Paso Robles. DCPP was about 40 miles from the epicenter.

Scientific and engineering advances are the basis for DCPP’s impressive performance. Nuclear power generation began in 1961 at the small Yankee Rowe plant. Yankee Rowe was less than 1/12 the size of DCPP. Yankee Rowe ceased operations on October 1, 1991. The plant operators could not justify the cost of the tests for embrittlement the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) ordered. [1] Yankee Rowe was the first and only US nuclear power plant shut down because of embrittlement concerns. The president of the consortium running Yankee Rowe was Professor Andrew Kadak. Kadak became an expert on embrittlement and decommissioning. During the September, 2022 meeting of the Diablo Canyon Independent Safety Committee (DCISC,) they agreed to retain Kadak as a consultant. The DCISC agenda shows he will, “assist in the Review of Spent fuel, Decommissioning and Regulatory Issues.” DCISC has retained a knowledgeable consultant.

The cost of natural gas appeared in the second paragraph. Sempra, as a natural gas wholesaler usually desires increased sales volumes. Since nuclear power plants decrease the demand for huge volumes of natural gas, those firms have a business rationale for closing nuclear power plants. Sempra holds a 20 percent ownership stake in the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS.) SONGS was a similar size as DCPP. Californians for Green Nuclear Power (CGNP) raised many objections to the unnecessary SONGS closure in January 2012. One of CGNP’s concerns was Sempra’s conflict of interest. CGNP established

that big fossil energy firms oppose keeping Diablo Canyon running. [2] In CGNP’s testimony since 2017, we raised conflict of interest concerns regarding a big fossil energy firm and a nonprofit, the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies (CEERT.) Unfortunately, this indirection pattern is widespread.

Third party nonprofits may receive direct or indirect donations from fossil energy firms. One recent example is the Sierra Club receiving $26 million from people associated with a natural gas company. [3] Other fossil interests followed Chesapeake Energy’s example, donating bigger sums to the Sierra Club. [4]

Some nonprofits have exaggerated or falsified nuclear power’s risks. As an example, SLO Mothers for Peace (SLO MFP) recently late-filed lengthy testimony with the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC.) SLO MFP sent excerpts to the Santa Barbara Independent. Digby MacDonald, Ph.D. claimed on page 193 of 218 that, “a similar and more-well know (sic) example of such an embrittlement failure mode is what sank the Titanic.” A passage in a 2000 textbook rebuts MacDonald’s claim. The passage concludes, “If the Titanic had not collided with the iceberg, it could have had a career of more than twenty years, as the Olympic had. It was built of similar steel in the same shipyard and from the same design. The only difference was a big iceberg.” [5]

As a science and engineering professor, I see the Diablo Canyon controversy as an example of why decision – makers and the public need critical thinking skills. Keep Diablo Canyon running.

[1]  “Yankee Rowe Nuclear Plant, oldest in the nation will close,” Thomas W. Lippman, February 27, 1992, The Washington Post. https://tinyurl.com/Yankee-Rowe

[2]  “Closing Diablo Canyon spurs fears over replacement power,” Gene Nelson, Ph.D., April 5, 2022, Capitol Weekly. https://Tinyurl.com/DCPP-VERSUS-COAL


[3]  “Answering for Taking a Driller’s Cash,” By Felicity Barringer, February 13, 2012, The New York Times. https://tinyurl.com/Chesapeake-Fracking

[4]  “The Anti-Industry Industry – What the media won’t tell you about the $4.5 billion-per-year NGO-corporate-industrial-climate complex,” Robert Bryce, Feb 18, 2023, https://tinyurl.com/Anti-Industry

[5]  Structure: In Science and Art – Page 143, Wendy Pullan, ‎Harshad Bhadeshia, editors, 2000. https://tinyurl.com/Titanic-Myth

and  “‘She was fine when she left here’ – Dispelling the Titanic myth,” by Matthew Symington, April 18, 2012 Updated: August 22, 2012, eamonnmallie.com. https://tinyurl.com/Titanic-Myth2


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