Are Diablo Canyon Employees Being Sold Down The River? 1

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  1. I don’t believe Diablo Canyon *caused* the environmental movement to go from pro-nuclear to anti-nuclear. At no point, those who opposed Diablo Canyon back at the time had any real, legit concern about Diablo Canyon. They hated nuclear, all nuclear, everywhere and couldn’t accept that Sierra club had decided to support it, and Diablo Canyon rather accidentally became the focus point of their fight. It was just a matter of giving a dog a bad name and hanging him.

    The question that is left is where did FOE receive that significant influx of money to hire lawyers to sue nuclear plants from ? I understand any information about that may highly confidential, at least as long as no real proof exists.

    1. Not quite. I wrote a history of this recently:

      “Starting in the mid-sixties, a handful of Sierra Club activists feared rising migration into California would destroy the state’s scenic character. They decided to attack all sources of cheap, reliable power, not just nuclear, in order to slow economic growth.

      “If a doubling of the state’s population in the next 20 years is to be encouraged by providing the power resources for this growth,” wrote David Brower, who was Executive Director of the Sierra Club, “the state’s scenic character will be destroyed. More power plants create more industry, that in turn invites greater population density.”

      A Sierra Club activist named Martin Litton, a pilot and nature photographer for Sunset magazine, led the campaign to oppose Diablo Canyon, a nuclear site Pacific Gas and Electric proposed to build on the central Californian coast in 1965. Sierra Club member “Martin Litton hated people,” wrote a historian about the how the environmental movement turned against nuclear. “He favored a drastic reduction in population to halt encroachment on park land.”

      But anti-nuclear activists had a problem: their anti-growth message was deeply unpopular with the Californian people. And so they quickly changed their strategy. They worked hard instead to scare the public by preying on their ignorance.

      Doris Sloan, an anti-nuclear activist in northern California said, “If you’re trying to get people aroused about what is going on … you use the most emotional issue you can find.” This included publicizing images of victims of Hiroshima and photos of babies born with birth defects. Millions were convinced a nuclear meltdown was the same as a nuclear bomb.

      out nuclear accidents he replied, “No, I really didn’t care because there are too many people anyway.” Why then all of the fear-mongering? “I think that playing dirty if you have a noble end,” he explained, “is fine.”

      But the fear-mongering worked on a young and idealistic Amory Lovins, the renewable energy advocate, who began his career crusading against nuclear weapons. Lovins’ basic framework of transitioning from nuclear to renewables was promoted by David Brower and Friends of the Earth and eventually embraced by Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Natural Resources Defense Council, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the German government, Al Gore, and a whole generation of environmentalists.

      The highest priority of the environmental movement was now to phase out nuclear, not fossil fuels. “It is above all the sophisticated use of coal, chiefly at modest scale, that needs development,” Lovins wrote in 1976. Around the same time Sierra Club’s Executive Director, Michael McCloskey, referred to coal as a “bridge fuel” away from nuclear and to renewables.

      1. Michael

        There’s a missing element in your history. Do you know where Brower, Lovins, Litton and others obtained the resources needed to promote their anti-human, anti-growth, anti-cheap power, pro-fossil fuel fear campaign?

        (It’s a leading question.)

        1. Since, “follow the money” seems to be a theme. Rod and Michael, I must profess ignorance on the inquiry I am about to make.

          Rather than lament the past, do either of you know whether persistent, passionate appeals have been made to very well-healed individuals who profess to be concerned with not only clean, abundant energy but the plight of the world’s poor due to “Energy Poverty” to take up the banner? Or are they pretty much just talk?

          I speak of:
          Bill Gates,Co-chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
          Mark Zuckerberg and Dr. Priscilla Chan, Founder, Chairman of Facebook and Pediatrician and CEO, The Primary School
          University of California, Office of the Chief Investment Officer
          Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO, Amazon
          Meg Whitman, CEO, Hewlett Packard Enterprise
          Richard Branson, Founder, Virgin Group
          John Arnold, Co-chair, Laura and John Arnold Foundation
          Ray Dalio, Founder, Bridgewater Associates
          John Doerr, General Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
          Marc Benioff, Founder, Chairman and CEO,
          Reid Hoffman, Founder, LinkedIn and Partner, Greylock
          Vinod Khosla, Founder, Khosla Ventures
          Julian Robertson, Founder and Chairman, Tiger Management
          Nat Simons and Laura Baxter-Simons, Co-founders, Prelude Ventures

          Ray A. Rothrock, Venrock Capital, NIA Board Member
          Rachel Pritzker, Pritzker Innovation Fund, NIA Advisory Committee

          Peter Theil, The Founders Fund

          1. My comments aren’t meant to be pejorative as I know, for instance, Rachel Pritzker has been very active at TEDtalks and many other forums to speak out. Unfortunately, often those venues reach a very select segment of the public. By “take up the banner” I mean directing funds to be used, as many on this site have suggested, to engage Professional PR Firms in an all out promotion of Nuclear Energy.

            The relative passivity of the Nuclear Industry through the years has been troubling. Since they have been remiss or cowed, it falls to the wealthy courageous from our society.

            By the way, I have used the Screen Name (New Clear Vision) when posting as I thought it was a clever pseudonym and pseudo-homonym for NUCLEAR FISSION. In retrospect it could very well be misconstrued for a lack of courage of my convictions, THIS IS NOT THE CASE. My name is Bryan Chesebrough and I will be altering my profile to reflect that in future posts here at Atomic Insights.

  2. Gee whizz.

    Diablo exits stage left.

    like no one saw this train’s headlights coming at black midnight in the desert.
    How about one last attempt to salvage the situation and NPP? It’s been belabored and belittled for years but maybe it’s time to execute the last straw you got to stop or slow the falling dominoes around this country:

    Reach out and de-FUD the public wholesale — Now, like yesterday!

    If cabbie firms and wedding salons and pizza parlors can do it in the $$$ NYC media market, can’t the nuclear coalitions out there produce a two minute educational mass market Ad on nuclear’s merits and record — INCLUDING comparing worst accidents with fossil — and smack the idealistic Pied Piper of wind/solar? Tap the pro Ad agencies out there or Mad Ave and they can have one out in two weeks that could very well make ALL the difference. My God it royally worked for fossils with DeepWater Horizon — ask a Gulfer if they even REMEMBER that eco disaster! Don’t wing an edu-Ad yourself and play it by ear; tap the pros. You only have one shot at this, California. Go toe-to-toe with antis in the mass media, NOT blogs. Turn public fear around by butting FUD straight on, no shy non-mentions. Better — public challenge top antis to debate in the same Ad!

    What do you all have to lose? Sure we alright know what, true, but then what have got to lose?? The ball is for you all to drop!

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

    1. I really wish our national organizations would step up to bat and support a visible PR campaign. NEI says their mission is lobbying in Congress but maybe they should think about expanding their outreach to the general public.

      I can remember about 15-20 years ago sitting in a plenary session of ANS and this same subject came up. The response was something like, “Our problem is a crass one: money.” Well, they have a checkbox for “Public Education & The Center for Nuclear Science and Technology Information” on the dues form. Does anyone besides me, since that ANS meeting I noted above, check that box? ANS has 11,000 active members. If each of those threw in $50 that’d be over a half-million, In two years we’d be over a million. Would that be enough to do it? Probably too late for Diablo Canyon, unless they get a reprieve. When it became obvious that more needed to be done, I lobbied my associates to check the Patron or Benefactor box. Some have, and I have done the Benefactor thing for going on 10 years now. Where have those funds gone? Can we not get our best organized group on board to save these plants?

      I don’t mean to pass the buck here, but as James notes above it will not be effective to ad lib a PR spot on our own as individuals. IIRC there was a production of “We Are Vermont Yankee” that featured the plant employees and now those same people are either on the road or in the unemployment line. We need a national PR organization with experience to spread the word in a way that will reach the average person, demolish the FUD and lies of the other side, and make a difference. That means bucks, and that means organization. ANS is the logical starting point. If they won’t stand up for us, its kind of useless.

        1. @Brian Mays

          You’re right that there are strong, experienced, well-funded opponents. My answer to that isn’t concession, or appeasement, but alliance building. We have a valuable product and a strong message of hope; we are finding strong friends who can help us move that message off of specialist blogs like Atomic Insights and into the main stream of conversation.

          Some of the names moving to our side could afford to buy groups like UCS with their pocket change.

          1. Some of the names moving to our side could afford to buy groups like UCS with their pocket change.

            Sure … they’re the small fish, but can these names afford to buy the more important (but less well known) organizations like the Tides Foundation and the Tides Center?


            Do you think your new friends could actually manage to buy the UCS, or would they just start a pointless bidding war?

            Let’s assume that they manage to buy them. The money being laundered through Tides will just go to the next up-and-coming anti-nuclear group. That’s how these things work. It’s a game of whack-a-mole until you can compete against the sources of all of this money.

            Then you have to counter the inherent anti-nuclear bias of the mainstream media and most celebrities, which costs the other side nothing.

            I’m just saying that a million or two — or even ten or twenty million — isn’t going to matter in this game. Especially in an era when the nuclear plant owners can’t even afford to keep their own plants going, largely due to government interference.

            Sure, we’ve got rich people like Bill Gates on board, but I think that he has realized the pointlessness of the PR battle in the largely ignorant and coddled US. Therefore, he is spending his money on technology and planning to build his demonstration plants in China.

          2. It’s also the case that when the truth, the facts, the science are on your side, while you still need money, every dollar you spend gets the “truth multiplier effect”.

            That is to say, if your opponents can’t bankrupt you and bury you to shut you up, you can spend fairly small dollars and get a big effect, because they have to spend far more money to overcome the truth.

        2. You don’t need a zillion dollars to Get Your Word Out, just the spine and the Will. Here in NYC we’ve seen ZIT educational or any promos for struggling Indian Point (in fact New York State’s huge self-promotion blitz liberally sprinkles scenes of windmills and solar farms and Niagara Falls but zit NPPs), yet Puppy Rescue and Pizza Parlors and cabbie firms play 15 – 30 second Ads _regularly_ here in NYC metro TV and cable. Are their pockets deeper than the collective nuclear community’s or even just one nuclear promotion organization which ought be living up to the gung-ho title of nuclear advocate? ANS and NEI and the Atomic Workers Union don’t even have to ply bucks if they’re way too shy to hawk nuclear’s merits out in public! Just openly rebut things like right in the enemy’s camp, but this never happens! Since when has Greenpeace or FOE or Arnie or Helen received a mash note correcting or challenging from ANS and NEI? It’s fine and dandy claiming ‘Oh, but we just lobby!’ — but where’s THAT gotten us? Where’s that gotten VY and SONGS and Indian Point and other ten-pins down the list? Any new nukes ordered? The “waste” issue laid to rest? The nuclear community better start seeking new champions who Get Out There and Spread The Word to the blog-unwashed public exactly like the antis do and do it yesterday, but I fear the PR hemorrhaging’s just festered too long and deep. The nuclear community focused too long staring at its navel going goo-gaa at all the new whiz bang nuclear tech on the horizon and didn’t bother glancing back at the bus looming behind it. TMI should’ve been an obvious wake-up call to form a united nuclear promotion program which could’ve helped blunt the social and media impacts of Fukushima and even Chernobyl and hence nuclear energy as a whole, but arrogance or competency or plain laziness reigned. It’s pretty incredible. You have an electrical energy source that in all its Rare Very Worst Accidents has caused far far far less damage to nature and property and human injury than any other since the Stone Age yet it’s been allowed be maligned and trashed and demonized while its advocate orgs stand by and watch the carnage. It’s really totally unreal. What’s worst is the Solution IS out there if those lounging back in the nuke PR drivers seat just GRABBED it!

          James Greenidge
          Queens NY

          1. James. I have no idea why but you frequently make great comments that seem to get no comments back. I totally agree with you James. We need all the good PR we can get. Some educational well presented facts would go a long way. Why no use the kids who are getting recognition for their science projects.

          2. Re: Rick Maltese,

            Thanks. Actually, the last most effective time for my nuke PR bitching was four or five years ago while you could still lead a horse to water and get some outcome, but only wistful habit moves me to do it now as deep inside I feel that horse has long left the barn to resuscitate U.S. nuclear’s image. The snowball is rolling. A lot of people are paying, and much more will, the price for the negligence and inaction of a few whose job titles are to promote nuclear every which way you can. These few whose butts would get the boot in one week if they used their nuclear promotion “savvy” to hawk cars or soap. I guess I still write in nuke blogs because I don’t want anyone to accuse me of being the first rat bailing out the sinking ship that could’ve saved the world.

            James Greenidge
            Queens NY

  3. “My God it royally worked for fossils with DeepWater Horizon — ask a Gulfer if they even REMEMBER that eco disaster!”

    You’re wrong. It has been kept out of the media spotlight, but the BP lies and propaganda has failed to stem the lawsuits and dissatisfaction waged by those most affected by that disaster.

    But you’re right about the ineffective squeeking that constitutes the nuclear industry’s so called PR. The pro nuclear efforts, such as Rod’d blog, and the various entities mentioned here frequently are little more than advocacy sites frequented by advocates. Mention any of these sites and efforts to John Q and you’ll just get a blank stare. But mention Fukushima, and get ready to be informed about what a dangerous and deadly”disaster” it was. And worse, many nuclear advocates treat the uninformed as idiots and enemies, alienating the very people they need to be educating and bringing onboard. Compounding this, it seems that many advocates cannot help but turn it into a politically partisan issue insteaf of an information issue, furyher alienating a broader spectrum of the populace. Spitting out the words “liberal” and “environmentalist” as if they are filthy words describing bad people is a losing strategy right outta the gate. But really, its water under the bridge. The industry has failed itself miserably in terms of PR, and is so far behind the eight ball that one plant closes after another, as the uninformed public breathes a sigh of relief, believing that disaster has been averted. Too little, too late might apply here if in fact the industry was making too little an effort. But one can’t really use that expression, because the industry isn’t even making what can be considered a little effort. So, forget the “too little” part. Just leave it at “too late”.

    1. POA – You are right. And has been expressed in another of Rod’s articles, continually telling people the places are safe has the opposite effect.

      “Nuclear plants are very very safe, they really are.”

      Makes one feel real good to hear something like that doesn’t it?

      “Don’t worry, it will never explode.”

      Just warms the heart.

    2. As far as I can tell, there never really was much of a PR campaign for nuclear power, aside from a few Walt Disney cartoons and some unremarkable Areva ads that ran on CNBC a few years ago. The NRC did most of the promoting up until the Carter administration, then it all stopped. Until I started following pro-nuclear bloggers I wouldn’t have known that there were new power plants being built in the US. I might have heard about Chinese and Indian power plants, but I’ve heard nothing from the media about the plants in Georgia and Tennessee.

      I think the industry saw nuclear power as so beneficial that there was no need to promote it, and Uncle Sam was happy to take on the task anyway.

  4. It is interesting to me that Schellenberger, a seemingly rational, scientifically minded individual would come at us with two conflicting “rumors” toting that he knows the future of Diablo Canyon. . . . obviously you don’t know. You aren’t tellin’ us anything we don’t already know man.
    Further more . . . resorting to fear mongering for motivation of plant workers at your gathering at Tap it brewery is (when we know you have no new info) just plain sad bro.
    I HAD a higher opinion of you Michael Shellenberger.

    1. Hi Luke,

      When I met with DCPP workers at San Luis Obispo last February, I promised I would share with them information I received about the plant, and not sugarcoat it.

      I’m sorry my email upset you so. It’s upsetting to me, too. And it’s upsetting to a very large number of other people who have a lot on the line: jobs, kids in school — their community.

      But I’m not sorry I shared the information. I made a promise, and I kept it. Mostly the emails I’ve received are from people thanking them for being honest with them.

      (Obviously that’s different for you since I didn’t tell you anything new — which, btw, I’m very glad to hear, as you are now yet another source confirming the information I reported.)

      I guess the question now is what, if anything, you’re going about it. You’re right that I hope the information I shared in my email motivates workers to take action — hopefully beyond Tap It tomorrow night. It’s certainly motivated me.


  5. Chugging at a Azalea Trail tavern in beautiful Mobile Alabama last winter: “DeepWater what? That a new water park??…”
    Sez it all.

  6. It’s up to Governor Jerry Brown, JR.

    Does he want a totally awesome legacy, like that of his dad, Jerry Brown, Sr. (excellent schools and universities).

    Or, does he want a legacy of flakey, smoggy decline? (declining schools, university budget cuts, Diablo Canyon closure).

    I think Governor Moonbeam has the latter legacy. What a jerk. He sold Californians down the river.

    I’m a native Californian. I’m glad I left California in 1986.

  7. I applaud Michael’s clarion call,

    “Third, the anti-nuclear groups have to be held accountable. Those individuals and groups trying to kill Diablo Canyon and replace it with natural gas and solar farms that require 150 times more land should be called what they are: anti-environmentalists, not environmentalists. They should be publicly denounced, and protested.”

    It echoes yesterday’s post by Joris van Dorp calling for “Environmentalists” to be publicly admonished or downright chastised for their indefensible positions and claims of being Environmentalists.

  8. Debunking professional anti-nuke organizations does little to off-set the FUD damage caused by the actions of the US NRC, which is easy to observe. It is taking down plants in the current operating fleet. Most of the plants in the current fleet that are in the news for “decommissioning” talk are owned by large Nuclear Plant holding companies (or small size, single plant owners). They must feel it is not in their best interest to just come right out and say “We don’t want to spend the money on moving the Design Basis “goal posts” for this plant.” Instead they say they can’t make money in today’s market structure.

    What is a non-technical observer to believe? If the plant is “safe” as is, why is there a need to spend millions of dollars upgrading it by expanding the original plant Design Basis?

    The logical conclusion to an observer is obvious; the plant “as is” is not safe, or there would be no reason to spend millions of dollars to upgrade it.

    The professional anti-nuke organizations are simply playing the gift-card handed to them by actions of the US NRC. If you want to solve a problem, understand the root cause.

  9. As a retired PG&E worker and former IBEW 1245 shop steward, I’m very saddened by this. Of course it’s not a done deal and we shouldn’t talk as it is. But it shows the limitation, IMO, of privately owned energy generation and utilities. As this decision (which is NOT up to Governor Brown, BTW, but wholly the task of the stock holders of PG&E). At least if it was a public utility, the actual discussion and decision would be the state’s rate payers and not stockholders whose only motivation is to insure a return on their stock portfolios.

    I’m not naive. Obviously this is California and we DID have a publicly owned, though terribly planned and built, nuclear power plant in Sacramento own by SMUD (Sacramento Municipal Utility District) which shutdown it’s barely operating nuclear power plant, Rancho Secho, by public vote on 7 June 1989. It had only a 39% operating CF for it’s life. But there was a referendum and a huge discussion about this.

    We need to go back to a searioius federal energy policy that can work with the states to promote, finance and *educate* about nuclear energy. We also need the labor movement to step in and step up in defense of their membership.

    [FYI: the California ISO has no jurisdiction of any of the municipal, regional and irrigation energy production and distribution in the state. For those that were wondering their jurisdiction is only about 80% of the states generation and grid. The rest are publicly owned]

  10. I spoke with two Diablo employees just the other day.

    California’s energy portfolio (derived through politics, not science) requires X amount of renewables, which require load-following backup – what I call “training wheels.” So in PG&E’s view, Diablo has to be replaced with gas to comply with the mandate.

    BUT – they also admit that they need baseload, and are retaining long-term coal contracts for same.

    Which begs the question: If they need baseload, and they need to decarbonize, why not shut down the coal plants instead?

    This is the same discrepancy that Michael pointed out in his recent article about Illinois’ energy portfolio – the criteria for an energy portfolio should be clean energy, as distinct from renewable energy.

  11. Mike talks about how anti-nuclear groups have increased nuclear plant costs, and made them a hassle to operate, through an endless stream of lawsuits. He goes on to say that people trying to shut down nuclear and replace it with renewables and gas are not really environmentalists, and should be held accountable.

    I fully agree, but is public denunciation, or other political responses, literally all we can do? My reaction to this is that I want to sue to whole lot of them, for environmental crimes. (Because that’s what closing nuclear plants is, an environmental crime.) As Mike said, those people used lawsuits to great effect. Can’t we do the same?

    I’m thinking of doing it myself. I want to sue all those environmental groups, and people in positions of power in the CA state government, for environmental crimes, if nothing else.

    Thoughts? Is there any legal case we can make?

    1. Also plant owners should class action sue the NRC over the legality of expanding the Design Basis of the Licensed Plants after the fact. And take it all the way to the SCOTUS. Make NRC prove both that they have the legal right to do it, and why it is legally justified on a technical basis.

    2. This is a great move if play shrewdly but how? — I’m not that good a chess player! Maybe an environmentally unfounded cause class action suit by “laid off” NPP workers and hapless landowners around ugly noisy windmills around the country? Maybe it’d help to get it down pat in U.N. determinations: Is global warming an impending international emergency or not, and as such are we being criminal chopping up the lifeboats by scrapping NPPs? What gives Greenpeace and FOE the arrogant right to try to coax Africans and others from going nuclear and shove us all down the global warming pit just because they’ve nuclear hang-ups? The totally unchallenged (with media’s help if it isn’t obvious) FUD and spiel of these “green” groups badly need to be exposed in open forums, legally and technically and eco-philosophically, maybe similar to staging TV political debates (hosted by ANS/NEI?). Put a memorandum on scrapping NPPs and mothball them at most and commandeer and declare them national emergency energy assets for when the weather and coasts go to hell and we have turn off fossils but quick . Again, the crux here just how SERIOUS a problem does the international community think global warming is, and the higher their determined peril is the more invaluable and precious every NPP is.

      James Greenidge
      Queens NY

  12. Its comical seeing these assertions that suing, admonishing, and attacking the environmentalists is a path to pulling NE out of the hole its in. Yeah, right, really p*ss off the very factions you need in your camp. Especially when they have ten times the media resources you do. Sometimes, reading the comments here, its very easy to understand why the public is so subceptable to FUD. Some of you guarantee opposition by your own mannerisms and strategies.

    1. So….”Environmentalists” who believe shutting down Diablo Canyon in the name of protecting the environment shouldn’t be attacked? That’s what you are saying?

      Nuclear Power has been playing nice for too long. Look where it has gotten us. These idiots and lunatics have quite possibly been the catalyst for shutting down the most beautiful, wonderfully run, environment friendly Nuclear Power Plant in the USA.

    2. It’s called slander of the 1st order; malicious intent and misleading people from the facts. In this case, willfully scaring and depriving people and a nation’s welfare of a energy source via lies and unproven allegations. Slander. A very useful truth equalizer. Hopf has it spot on.

    3. The groups and factions specifically being discussed here will never be in “our camp”. I’m not advocating “attacking” environmentalists (in general), but dedicated anti nuclear groups that are willingly and knowingly taking action to cause non-emitting nuclear to be replaced with polluting fossil fuels. That position is demonstrably (and morally) wrong, and it should be called out (as thus) at every opportunity. You’re saying I shouldn’t speak out against policies and actions that are wrong, or against lies?

      I’m involved with environmentally-minded organizations (e.g., the Citizen’s Climate Lobby) and I engage with open-minded, environmentally conscious people all the time. I know how to go about it, and people are often surprisingly open minded and supportive (i.e., I’ve made progress with many). There is a far broader group of environmentally conscious people that can be reached, with respect to nuclear, and nobody here is engaging such people by yelling at them right from the start.

      Those anti-nuclear groups have used the legal system to place burdens on the nuclear industry, the result being plant closures, which in turn causes tangible harm, i.e., increased power cost, air pollution and CO2 emissions. I’m just wondering if and how we could use the legal system as well.

      1. “You’re saying I shouldn’t speak out against policies and actions that are wrong, or against lies?”

        Either you can’t read, or you don’t want to. I’m saying you need to speak out against those lies by launching an effective PR program designed to educate, assimilate, and unify. You don’t conquer ignorance with confrontation. And the ones spreading the lies are NOT your target for education. They have motives for the lies. Its their agenda, their strategy. You won’t change that, confrontation or no confrontation. The target for education are those victimized by the lies, those that have been conned into a state of ignorance. And you sure as hell ain’t going to win them over by spitting in their faces by questioning their convictions and telling them they are false environmentalists. Look at it this way, did Brian win me over by insulting me every time I disagreed with him? Hell no. If it was just Brian here, by now I’d be thoroughly on board with the antis, because who wants to ally themselves with someone thats been nothing but insulting and abrasive? But Rod’s tolerance and honest effort to inform, (as well as a few others), has brought about almost a full 180 degree change of heart in the way I view NE. You gotta ask yourself how you change minds. Realistically. By being the bully? Or being the teacher?

  13. Mr. Hopf and “mjd” –

    No, you can’t just sue organizations that disagree with you. Further, you shouldn’t be able to, in my view.

    Powers-that-be may be attracted to SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) suits to intimidate opponents, but the effect is to chill free speech.

    The antidote to the frame-of-reference that nuclear opponents have, unfortunately, successfully created – – where misimpression’s and falsehoods are accepted as difficult-to-dislodge “felt truths”, while what is true, and can be proven, is either ignored or disbelieved – – is not a campaign of intimidation. It is a relentless effort embodying effective, fact-based, and passionate advocacy.

    I believe the best thing is to directly and openly challenge the reflexive anti-nuclear position, like Mr. Shellenberger is doing, and Rod Adams has done for years.

    Nuclear advocates have persuasive facts that most people remain unaware of, no matter how obvious and well-known we would like them to be. Use those facts effectively and respectfully.

    This is most productively done in forums where opponents can be directly and persistently engaged. You won’t win over committed anti-nuclear activists, but some observers will be able to tell who is being “straight with them.”

    Lawsuits have a role, but that role should not be as a tool to suppress opinion.

    1. @Frank Jablonski. I’m not suggesting to sue the NRC over a difference of opinion. I’m suggesting challenge their power, in court, to extend the plant Design Basis after plant licensing. These extensions of Design Basis modifications cause a huge amount of money. And nothing else works this way. If building codes are upgraded, for example earthquake or hurricane concerns, it only affects future designs. Nothing requires back fitting current structures; they are grandfathered. The first words out of the NRC after Fukushima were “We want to assure you all our operating plants are currently safe.” It can’t be both ways, they are either safe ‘as they were’ or not. But NRC is now requiring extensive post-Fukushima modifications on all the current plants.

      I’d like them to prove they legally have the right to do that in a court of law; since nothing else works this way. Sorry if you misunderstood my comment, admit I may not have worded it clearly.

      And I will say it again to emphasis it. This is what is loading the guns of the anti-nuke arguments. I can’t agree with your approach for the long term, because it is never ending, so it is just defensive energy after the fact and the damage has been done. It is only dealing with the symptom of the problem. Which is the NRC constantly saying the plants are not “safe enough”, so we are extending the Design Basis hardware and analysis, and don’t care what it costs.

      Again, it can’t be both ways, safe but yet not safe. Sorry you don’t see it that way. And it has been going on exponentially since TMI2. You can’t spend an exponential amount of money on any production machine and expect it to stay profitable. It is not a “matter of opinion.”

      1. “And nothing else works this way. If building codes are upgraded, for example earthquake or hurricane concerns, it only affects future designs. Nothing requires back fitting current structures; they are grandfathered”

        Tell that to the thousands of commercial building owners, and public building managers and engineers, in Los Angeles County, that have sunk billions in private and taxpayer monies on seismic retrofitting of apartment buildings, high rises, and government facilities.

        You’re wrong.

    2. Frank, you’re an island of common sense in an ocean of self defeatist non-thinkers.

      The key word is “believes” when one engages with an environmentalist that is anti-NE. The set of beliefs is founded in misinformation. So, you attack him because he is misinformed? How teachable is he going to be after you turn him into an angry adversary? It ain’t his fault the industry has done a miserable job of countering a well funded and wide reaching campaign of misinformation. Like I said above, its quite obvious why NE is falling out of favor, with many of the NE advocates being their own worst enemy, and the rest of them not having the guts, or the common sense, to muzzle them.

    3. Tell that to VY workers who regret like hell that they didn’t pin the antis allegations and lies to the wall in the mass media. If a mob’s pointedly out to shut down my job and livelihood via lies and falsehoods to sway clueless feckless politicians that makes them ripe for retaliation.

    4. Frank,

      Opinions (disagreeing with me) are one thing. Actions are another. Actions have tangible impacts. When actions cause a negative impact, they are valid targets for a lawsuit, and (previous) lawsuits by anti-nuclear organizations (that result in increased fossil fuel pollution) are *actions*. They are not merely one having an opinion.

      A judge recently decided to allow a lawsuit by a group of children over global warming to go to trial. The are suing the fossil industry (various entities). What *actions* are they suing them over? Telling the public that global warming is not a problem even though they knew it was. Applying political pressure (i.e., using the political system) to avoid anything being done about it even though they knew it was a problem. They’ve used the legal system as well (e.g., coal companies suing the EPA, routinely, over new regulations, the argument being that the EPA rule exceeds EPA’s authority under the CAA).

      So, at least one judge agreed that these children have the right to sue. The right to sue the fossil industry for (previous) legal actions (lawsuits) that they engaged in. The right to sue them over deliberately spreading lies (just their “opinion”, eh?). The right to sue them over political actions that they’ve taken.

      Is lying free speech (e.g., the tobacco executives)? These anti-nuclear groups are lying, period. They routinely spread demonstrably false information. On top of that, they are deliberately taking actions that get nuclear replaced with fossil fuels. I consider that an environmental crime, and I have as much right as anyone to have my day in court.

      There may be legal approaches that do not involve suing someone “because they have different opinion.” In this ANS Café article (link below) I explored the idea of the industry suing under the principle of equal protection under the law. The point being that nuclear pollution is absolutely unallowed, whereas fossil plants are allowed to pollute massively and routinely. Or, how nuclear is treated fundamentally differently than renewables, even though both are clean, non-emitting sources. Groups of people (e.g., minorities) has sued under the equal protection clause, and the post explored whether the idea could be extended to an unfairly treated industry.

      1. Forgot to mention, the notion of such a lawsuit is not entirely alien. New York recently proposed a Clean Energy Standard that would give financial support to its upstate nuclear plants, but that support did not apply for Indian Point (the reason being that the governor is personally opposed to its operation). Entergy responded by immediately threatening to sue any such policy, as it arbitrarily discriminates between different nuclear power plants.

        Well, all Entergy (or we) need to do is extend that logic one step further. It is capricious and arbitrary to treat one non-polluting, non-CO2-emitting source (nuclear) differently than another (renewables). It’s not beyond the realm of possibility.

    5. In the (linked) ANS post, I looked at the civil rights movement as an example of groups (that are victims of persistent prejudice) suing under the equal protection clause. More generally, it was an example of affected groups’ deciding not to wait and continue to try and “win over” the public (in the South) given the persistence of the prejudice, how long that would take, and the level of suffering involved. Instead, they turned to the courts to rectify the situation, wrongheaded majority public sentiment (in the South) be damned.

      I suppose, under PoA’s logic, such (civil rights) court actions would not be a good idea, since they might antagonize people they’re trying to reach (i.e., the bigots in the South??). Again, I’m not talking about suing or confronting the large body of environmentally-conscious people, but the dyed-in-wool anti-nuclear groups that will never be reached. In any event, they decided not to wait (to win over the bigots). The sued and they won, and nobody regrets their course of action. Civil rights issue in general are indeed an example of public opinion being swayed by public shaming of unjustifiable opinions.

      I don’t know if an industry can sue under the equal protection clause, the same way a segment of the population can. It may also be true that suing anti-nuclear groups over the negative consequences of their actions will not work, since “political activities” are generally protected.

      But it’s possible that such a lawsuit, if it gets publicity, could finally wake the public up to the fact that closing nuclear plants has serious, tangible, negative environmental consequences. I meet a depressingly number of people for whom the notion that nuclear power may have environmental benefits (or anything other than “making profit” for the power company) never entered their minds. This, despite all out attempts at advocacy and public education. Perhaps such a lawsuit will get the public’s attention and expose them to the above “concept”. It may be an avenue though which our position (facts) gets aired to a significant audience.

      We’ve tried “fact-based, impassioned advocacy” for decades. Doesn’t seem to be getting anywhere. Probably because (as many others have pointed out) we’re hopelessly outgunned by opponents and liars. This has lead me to think that we need to try something else. I admit that I don’t know what the answer is (the lawsuit idea may not work), but what we’re doing now ain’t working…

      Again, I have to clarify that I’m not talking about suppressing people’s opinion. Civil rights suits didn’t suppress people’s opinion (bigots remained free to espouse their views), they suppressed actions and policies. Any nuclear suit would suppress unfair policy. As for legal activities (lawsuits) that drive up nuclear costs and result in increased used of fossil fuels, I continue to believe that those are *actions*, not just the expression of opinion.

  14. What’s in it for PG&E? Why are they so anxious to shut down a resource that ostensibly should be a big money maker – the capital costs are paid down, the operating costs should be(?) low, the fuel costs are low, and there’s plenty of demand for the product.

    By way of analogy – I’m currently driving a 2005 Hyundai Sonata that I bought used in 2007. The initial purchase price (capital costs) have been fully paid off for about 5 years, but right now, the car still runs great, so I’d be kind of nuts to get rid of it – resale value on a 10 year old car are too low to be worth cashing out, but the useful life the car still probably has is such that I can basically drive almost for free (OK, I still have to pay for gas, oil changes, new tires once every couple years, and occasional maintenance), but the operating costs of my vehicle are very low.

    Why would I destroy that valuable asset during the time when I have the highest Return on Investment (ROI) that I will ever have for the vehicle? In a few years, maintenance costs may start to get too high, and I may at that point decide to get another vehicle. But not right now when there don’t seem to be any problems in sight.

    Why would PG&E decide to destroy Diablo Canyon during it’s (I would think) period of highest ROI?

    1. Because unlike your car (and my 2000 Tahoe Limited with almost 500K miles), PG&E is facing government organizations telling it to (using your car analogy) rip out a perfectly good radiator and replace it with something much more expensive and inefficient, etc.

    2. “Why would PG&E decide to destroy Diablo Canyon during it’s (I would think) period of highest ROI?”

      Because they can “earn” a higher ROI by switching to federally subsidized wind and solar with natural gas as a backup. The stockholders will earn a guaranteed return on subsidized wind and solar. They will also earn a premium on natural gas once gas prices increase since those price increases are automatically shifted to the ratepayers with a little kicker added in by PG&E. A few cents here, a few dollars there and all of sudden it becomes a nice healthy ROI for the stockholders. Then when the system begins to crumble, the management group in charge at that time will be able to shrug their shoulders and claim their predecessors were only following the whims of public opinion (after already cashing in their stock options).

      Contrast that with the uncertain economics of a single NPP on the CA coast line where all anti-nuclear forces are now aligned after SONGS closed. The number of lawsuits in the pipeline against Diablo Canyon, either directly or through the NRC, is probably relatively large. Each lawsuit has to be individually dealt with and will more then likely result in changes to the design basis documents since the system is prejudiced against non-action. IOW, a legal settlement either in the courts or through the NRC always carries new regulatory and/or design burdens on NPP’s. Those design changes carry a high risk premium since any cost estimate is strictly a guess due to the uncertainties of dealing with the NRC that would be swayed by CA anti-nuclear politics.

      The economics of nuclear have shifted dramatically and will continue to shift every time Congress extends the current subsidy system.

      Also having a low bar for filing complaints with the NRC against specific plants is raising the risk level required to operate nuclear power plants to unprecedented levels. With each tick up in the risk level, more millions need to be put aside for risk mitigation.

      As mjd discusses above, the fleet owners should have sued the NRC years ago for the constant increase in regulatory burdens that have been imposed on the nuclear plants without consideration of a risk based cost assessment. However, the precedent has been set. Anti-nuclear groups are allowed to basically use the NRC to drive plants into decommissioning with help from FERC rules that favor wind and solar as was pushed by Wellinghoff (known for his efforts in suing Trojan into early decommissioning).

      Then the final nail in the coffin of existing nuclear power plants is a zombie subsidy system that continues to reward wind and solar developers while leaving the rate/tax payers to pay the full bill.

        1. Hello Rod,

          Yes I am ok with elevating my comment with a correction. However, I wanted to fact check myself and need to correct a statement I made.

          While I would like to keep associating Wellinghoff with the early decommissioning of Trojan, he did not directly participate in the Trojan issues. I had my information crossed and was mixing historical items together that should remain separated.

          What Wellinghoff did do is push a Renewable Portfolio Standard program through in Nevada that was graded as an ‘A’ by the Union of Concerned Scientists and has been used as a template elsewhere. He then took that experience to FERC where he proceeded to push various initiatives that favored demand response, wind, solar and hydrokinetic technologies. IOW, Wellinghoff would prefer a world where nuclear power did not exist based on his actions.

      1. @Bill Rogers: Is there no Congressperson out of the closet who’s on board with what you said??

        1. @Mitch,

          While the pied pipers of German Energiewende still have the ears of Congress, options are limited.

          The wind /solar subsidy system was brought back to life with support from both sides of the aisle. Many in Congress have drunk the kool-aid about Germany massive subsidy driven shift to wind. However there are limits which Merkel has finally publically admitted.

          So the question is how long will it take that message to wind it’s way over here. There are limits as many us have saying. NREL and their followers, Jacobson and others will still say 100% is possible. Could take years for that message to be driven into the trash heap where it belongs.

          Even the new Energy Modification bill that just passed doesn’t really push hard to grow nuclear power. Puts wind/solar ahead of every other generation source, money for fusion (fusion is still R&D, not against R&D but not yet commercially viable so why write the bill with a significant focus on fusion), and leaves DOE still setting nuclear power priorities. Doesn’t force them to change and allows nonproliferation groups to still significantly affect the national nuclear power agenda.

          I am pessimistic that Congress will really dramatically change the national conversation regarding nuclear power especially going into this election cycle.

          Also, until Reid leaves the Senate no significant movement will occur. His focus is still Yucca Mt. And anything that is even slightly moves the needle towards nuclear power will be aggressively blocked by Reid and his people.

  15. BTW, I just came across this article, where the anti-nuclear groups are boasting about how their legal actions led to the closure of San Onofre (the FoE lawsuit in particular). So much for it being only about economics, eh?

    This is a (published) example of what Mike was talking about.

    From the article:

    “These combined efforts eventually made Edison’s power plays untenable—and unprofitable– and three years ago Edison threw in the towel and closed down San Onofre for good. “

    1. Edison made a bad redesign of the steam generators, costing ratepayers billions of dollars and releasing radiation into the environment. All four steam generators showed decades of wear in less than a year. It was Southern California Edison’s fault the plant closed.

      1. @Donna Gilmore

        Thank you for joining in the discussion.

        However, your comment is misleading. For example, do you know how much radiation was released? There were detailed inspections conducted of all four steam generators. While a few of the tubes were seriously worn and needed to be be taken out of service using standard tube plugging techniques, most of the tubes that showed some signs of wear were well within design tolerances for wall thickness and could have been operated. However, every single one of the tubes showing any wear at all could have been plugged without using up the original design margin of having about 10% more tubes than necessary to reach full power.

        Wear from physical contact isn’t something that can spread to unaffected areas in a steam generator. The design flaw was limited to a small portion of a very large heat exchanger. Though there were mistakes made, they were relatively minor ones and well within the allowances that engineers give themselves because they understand that nothing designed and manufactured by people is absolutely perfect. Designers in conservative industries like power generation tend to use some pretty generous margins to account for unknowns; that is the kind of people they are.

        Answer to the question posed at the beginning of this comment: Only one tube out of nearly 40,000 tubes actually leaked slightly radioactive water into the steam side of the heat exchanger. Here is a post that calculates the maximum possible dose to the most exposed person; everyone else in the area received doses that were hundreds to thousands or many millions of times lower.

        Though SCE bears some fault for the way it handled the initial event and its public relations effort both years before the event and after the event occurred, there is plenty of blame to spread around to the politicians and focused opposition groups.

        One of the saddest parts of the whole episode, in addition to the nearly 2,000 people who lost great, productive jobs in one of the nicest areas of the country, is that the winners were mainly people involved in extracting and distributing natural gas. Those winners knew what would happen if the plant closed; they provided some of the financial backing that brought the organized opponents and their political allies to the fight.

        1. … there is plenty of blame to spread around to the politicians and focused opposition groups.

          You mean like “San Onofre Safety”? Donna Gilmore is the founder of this focused opposition group, which works closely (as they claim) with other focused opposition groups.

      2. @ Donna Gilmore,

        Technically SCE did not make, fabricate, or produce a bad steam generator design. That was Mitsubishi. But “bad” is a relative term. Should the steam generators have lasted longer? Yes they should have. Which is why SCE was/is suing Mitsubishi for breach of contract.

        However, that does not meant the steam generators couldn’t still function.

        As Rod indicates, the very low percentage of tubes that failed could have been plugged and the plant could have continued operation providing carbon free electricity while a permanent solution for the vibration was researched, designed and implemented.

        This was not the first time a steam generator tube leaked in a power plant. There are several examples of both non-nuclear and nuclear steam generators having to deal with this issue. In fact some older non-nuclear plants leaked like sieves as I have been told.

        However those issues never drove the plants off-line since they were not dealing with FUD spread by anti-nuclear groups who had the support of an avowed anti-nuclear senator. A senator that then pushed the NRC into creating a special oversight process when the existing NRC organization structure was sufficiently robust enough to deal with the issues. The special oversight process then spent more time dealing with anti-nuclear politics instead of assisting in resolving the technical and engineering details of the steam generator water/steam vibration issues. Which could and should have been solved in a timely and orderly fashion instead of a non-stop barrage of regulatory oversight costs that added very little towards solving the actual technical issues at hand.

        Instead SoCal lost 2GW’s of carbon free generation resulting in more electricity being imported from other states. Also more pipelines being proposed and soon to be built to supply new natural gas power plants specifically for SoCal in order to make up for the loss of generation and to ensure future grid stability.

        All those billions necessary to replace SONGS will be paid for by the taxpayers and ratepayers. Forcing SONGS to close early does not mean the elimination of the need to pay for electricity. Many don’t really seem to understand that fact that they are going to pay for replacement generation through increased rates and through tax subsidies. There ain’t no free lunch here.

        IOW there really isn’t any savings over the next 20 years since a wind/solar/natural gas system actually means the rate/tax payer is being hit twice for the same generation sources. And I am one who believes that when natural gas prices begin to increase, the SCE ratepayers will be net losers.

        Case in point is the news that this summer may be get a little hot since there might be insufficient generation to supply all of SoCal with electricity. Rolling blackouts may make a comeback:

        So SoCal is now tied to a natural gas based generation system. Going to get interesting for SoCal in the next 10-20 years especially since Ivanpah is not producing as much solar generated power as was projected.

  16. Diablo Canyon, San Onofre and other U.S.  plants use thin-walled spent fuel canisters that cannot be inspected, repaired, maintained or monitored and which can prematurely crack and leak millions of curies of radiation from even a microscopic crack. I spoke with a number of Diablo Canyon employees who were not aware a Diablo Canyon canister was found to have all the conditions for cracking in a two-year old canister.  And PG&E loaded over half of the canisters backwards, loading cooler fuel assemblies in the inner basket cells and the hotter ones in the outer cells. The canisters are welded shut, so no one knows if there is any damage to the fuel cladding.  Japan has found aluminum baskets won’t last 60 years so has banned their use. All Diablo Canyon’s baskets are an aluminum alloy. Japan and other countries use thick walled metal casks with bolted lids. They do not have the problems of the thin canisters. Size matters when it comes to wall thickness. U.S. uses mostly 1/2″ thick walls. Most other countries use thick metal casks 10″ to almost 20″ thick.

    1. @Donna Gilmore

      Are you aware of the helium pressurization that fills the non fuel space in dry storage containers before they are sealed?

      Can you explain the mechanism that would allow solid ceramic fuel pellets capable of resisting extremely high temperatures and stored inside corrosion resistant zircalloy tubes to “leak millions of curies of radiation from even a microscopic crack.” That seems more than a little farfetched under the laws of physics, material science and chemistry that govern the Earth on which we live.

      I see from the comment thread of this NRC blog post that you have quite an interest in dry storage containers. Would you be interested in a continued discussion with a trained and qualified expert who works in the field? I think I can find someone willing to engage in an honest discussion.

      1. I hope she responds, Rod. The manner in which you are attempting to engage with her, and arrange debate and information sharing, is constructive. I will be extremely interested in whether or not she takes advantage of the opportunity you’ve offered her. If she chooses not to, it says volumes……

      2. Awaiting an anti’s reply for a discussion/debate! Unfortunately antis have the luxury of chickening out and it’s still a PR plus for them by default thanks all the FUD already out there.

        1. So…before giving it a chance, you already put ridicule out there, working to undo the tone of the opportunity and invitation Rod offered her. Thats brilliant, Mitch.

          1. It’s not nuclear physics, it’s street sense. Because from her nuclear comments record there’s no chance in hell she’s going to let Rod put her anti dogma in its place in public, no more than Helen would. She’s not going to eat fact and truth when her side’s on a roll. You can take that to the bank. Antis accepting debates from nuclear pros are rare as solar eclipses, and often such are mismatched set-ups to stage how weak the nuclear argument is.

          2. Well… have successfully convinced yourself, obviously, Mitch. But quite stupidly, through insult and derision, you’ve given her an out. Anyone with half a brain wouldn’t bother to respond when someone like yourself steps in to undermine conversation. No wonder they don’t engage with you. You just made an idiot of yourself. And, you didn’t do Rod any favors, either.

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