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Letters to the Editor: Our fears of nuclear power are vastly overblown. Don’t close Diablo Canyon

A wide view of the Diablo Canyon Power Plant.
The Diablo Canyon Power Plant in San Luis Obispo County is slated for decommissioning in 2025.
(Joe Johnston / San Luis Obispo Tribune)

To the editor: Your editorial on Diablo Canyon says that the idea of keeping California’s last nuclear plant operating is “largely divorced from reality.” Unfortunately, the Editorial Board offers weak defense for this strong assertion.

Claims of danger and meltdown at the Diablo Canyon Power Plant in San Luis Obispo County stoke fear but lose their sting when juxtaposed with the fact that the death rate from producing energy with nuclear power is comparable or lower than that of solar or wind.

Likewise, radioactive waste is a real problem, but when it can be safely stored and almost fully recycled, that fear, to some degree, also ebbs.

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In the U.S., constructing new nuclear plants is slow and costly. For this reason and the other concerns listed, many reasoned perspectives oppose new plants. At the same time, those serious about climate action recognize that decommissioning existing plants — huge sources of consistent, clean energy — makes our uphill battle unbearably vertical.

Matthew Lundy, Morgan Hill, Calif.

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To the editor: Kudos to The Times for its editorial about closing Diablo Canyon. Spent nuclear fuel remains dangerous for thousands of years. Plutonium-239 must be isolated from humans for 240,000 years, far longer than any known human civilization — what a terrible burden for future generations.

No state wants a repository built in their backyard, and Diablo Canyon’s spent fuel rods will likely remain onsite and dangerous virtually forever.

We have many choices for energy that are low-carbon, do not create radioactive waste or use fossil fuels, are not as expensive and take less time to construct for our urgently needed conversion to green technology.

Pacific Gas & Electric, which owns Diablo Canyon, understands the risks of leaving an outdated plant online, and the state Public Utilities Commission agrees. The plant is slated to be decommissioned in 2025. We should all sleep better when the last nuclear power plant in California is offline for good.

Sandy Simon, Nipomo, Calif.

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To the editor: A reliable, baseload power facility that does not emit carbon is a valuable resource. It makes no sense to forgo this important asset in the fight to address climate change.

The editorial glibly mentions “practical considerations” of seismic risks and what to do with the waste as though they are real problems. In fact, Diablo Canyon is very robustly designed for seismic events and thoroughly inspected to verify the facility is maintained in accordance with the design.

Waste handling is not a problem but a huge asset for nuclear power. What other large-scale industry keeps its waste totally isolated from the environment? The waste is stored in an extremely safe manner on site using methods that the industry has much experience with.

Nuclear power is one of the safest means of large-scale electricity production available. Radiation scares the public well beyond what is warranted, and ultra-conservative regulations have been developed.

Natural radiation interacts with our body more than 10,000 times each second, so the editorial board need not be concerned about isotopes being spread around the globe — they are already here in abundance from natural sources.

John Windschill, Aitkin, Minn.

The writer is a retired safety and performance manager of nuclear plants.


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