Don E.: Comments on Newsom's Diablo Memo


Here is my pass at addressing the major points of Gavin Newsome's letter.


Newsome's main comments are italicized, followed by my responses:

If I could decommission Diablo Canyon and replace it responsibly without increased carbon emissions tomorrow, I would do it.

No one is saying you can or should replace lost DC power by tomorrow, but we do feel 9 years is too long. Tons of radioactive wastes will be produced without anyplace to go, and one of the world's most majestic (and expensive) landscapes, its ocean population and agricultural land will remain threatened by the considerable seismic activity in the area whose potential for the unexpected we saw at Fukushima. Experience has shown that it is better to consider worst-case scenarios when considering the risks with nuclear power.

We did, however, use the threat of this lease renewal to force PG&E into address the long-term future of nuclear power in California --- which will now end, categorically, in 2025 and be replaced only by renewable GHG-free sources of energy.

We worry about the history of deception we have witnessed from PG&E and, current reform promises aside, the historically cozy relationship with CPUC that has given the company generally what it wanted. We worry that if PG&E is spared this long overdue EIR, a way may be found to end run these promises and go for a license extension.

As with 911 and "weapons of mass destruction", politicians should not achieve plausible deniability saying they believe the story they are given.

Discusses sudden loss of SO power required more GHG-powered replacement power that jarred energy markets and skyrocketed consumer costs.

Currently, a main thing keeping costs for renewables high is the output of Diablo Canyon suppressing the market. With political will, the 50% of Diablo Canyon power needing replacement could be done with renewables and conservation in well under 9 years, which would save tons of waste production while creating many well-paying jobs.

We have accomplished concessions from PG&E that will ring alarm bells around the world and sets a new chapter in energy history. This is what we accomplished:

1. The closure of California's last nuclear plant in 2025 at the latest.

Could and should be done sooner.

2. A signed and written agreement that the lost power of Diablo Canyon can only be replaced by a combination of renewable energy and energy efficiencies

How binding are these agreements? PG&E has a notorious number of lawyers on its payroll.

3. The written public acknowledgement, for the first time, by a major utility corporation that renewable energy is more cost efficient than nuclear power.

Opponents of nuclear power have known this for a long time. Now, PG&E finally admits the truth and we're supposed to be thankful??

4. The written public acknowledgement, for the first time, by a major utility corporation that the era of baseload power is over, and that renewable sources can carry the weight of energy production.

Ditto above.

5. A signed and written agreement that PG&E will provide 55% of its entire energy sales through renewable sources, from 2031.

Is that 50% of current output, or 50% of projected 40-50% from reduced demand, which would be about 25% of today's output?

6. A signed and written agreement from PG&E that it will implement a fair employee retirement, redeployment and retraining program for its Diablo Canyon workforce of 1,500 men and women, to protect those workers and their families from unemployment and hardship.

Only fair, but not germane to the need we are expressing to limit production of wastes and reduce threats to the environment from earthquakes.

7. A signed and written agreement from PG&E to backfill lost Diablo Canyon revenues to the county of San Luis Obispo, to minimize the impact on the public services like schools that we all so deeply cherish.

Again, only fair, but not germane. Additionally, a cautionary tale of the threats still extant for a "company town".

EIR is a delaying tactic likely to be successfully challenged in court by PG&E, anyway. This agreement gives a solid plan for the complete phase-out of nuclear power in the state in no more than 9 years.

A plausible, strong argument for taking time and doing it right. Still, continued operation of DC will hamper "doing it right" as long as the power produced impinges on bringing new renewable sources on line. Is it really a "delaying tactic", or a chance to take a long look at the environmental consequences of continuing running these reactors that should have been done long ago?

And, just because a certain action may be challenged in court should not be a factor to prevent doing the right thing. Does California have better lawyers than PG&E? Can they "out gun" us? The state needs to challenge back, and put companies on notice that legal challenges will be met with all the force the state can bring to bear.

"Even had an EIR been upheld, we're looking at near-identical timelines for the plants' closure, without the guarantees of its replacement by 100% renewable energy sources and energy efficiencies, without the 55% renewable portfolio, without the head-turning global acknowledgement on the benefit of renewables over nuclear and baseload power structures, and without the worker and community protections."

Again, it all comes down to trust. PG&E has an abysmal record of trust, especially in its home town of San Francisco, as you are well aware, starting with its 1913 hijacking of Hetch-Hetchy power from a municipal source, to its pocketing money that should have been used to oversee gas line safety, causing death and destruction in San Bruno.

I am committed to holding PG&E accountable to their agreement.

We hope we can count on this commitment, wherever your political fortunes carry you. We, too, will be watching.