California urged to keep nuclear plant open to meet climate goals
Feb 3 (Reuters) - Nearly 80 scientists and academics, including a former U.S. energy secretary, on Thursday urged Governor Gavin Newsom to delay closure of California's remaining nuclear plant to comply with state laws on fighting global warming.
"The threat of climate change is too real and too pressing to leap before we look," said a letter to Newsom from Steven Chu, a former U.S. energy secretary, and the others. "Considering our climate crisis, closing the plant is not only irresponsible, the consequences could be catastrophic."
The letter was organized by Isabelle Boemeke, a model and founder and executive director of Save Clean Energy, a nonprofit group that promotes the emissions benefits of nuclear power.
Faced with rising costs for operating the plant's two reactors, the utility PG&E (PCG.N) decided in 2016 to allow their licenses to expire in 2024 and 2025, which would close the last nuclear plant in the nation's most populous state.
Environmental groups concerned about earthquakes, nuclear waste, and use of seawater to cool reactors, had also pushed for the closure.
As concern about climate change has mounted, however, so has the call to keep open Diablo Canyon, which backers say is the state's top source of emissions free power.
U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a Reuters interview in November that she would be willing to talk with California officials about the possibility of keeping it open once the federal government makes progress on dealing with nuclear waste, an issue for which there is no permanent fix.
Granholm said then that there is a "change underfoot about the opinion people may have about nuclear." The Department of Energy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Erin Mellon, a spokesperson for Newsom, said retail energy providers are in the process of procuring projects to replace power generated by Diablo Canyon and that California has the technology and plans to meet its clean energy goals.
PG&E said its focus is on safely operating the plant until the end of its licenses.
Diablo Canyon can withstand earthquakes larger than nearby faults are capable of triggering, the letter said. It cited an assessment that PG&E sent in 2018 to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission finding no significant seismic or tsunami hazards to the plant.
The Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit group that has studied seismic risks to nuclear plants, says Diablo Canyon is one of the top 10 U.S. plants most vulnerable to earthquakes and was built to a more stringent, though insufficient, standard than reactors in the U.S. East.
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