Dear Steve,

Thank you kindly for your consideration of Diablo Canyon. A few points:

— The climate implications of losing Diablo would be massive. Diablo would be replaced by natural gas, and create the equivalent amount of carbon emissions as putting nearly two million new cars on the road.  

— Diablo Canyon produces twice as much power as all of California’s solar panels, 24 percent more than all of its wind, and 40 times more than its largest solar farm. Diablo provides nearly one-quarter of the state’s electricity from clean energy.

— If Diablo Canyon closes, meeting our climate goals — already very difficult — will be near-impossible. 

— Saving Diablo comes with a conservation win: up to 2,000 acres of coastal land that would likely have to be purchased by Pacific Gas & Electric to mitigate Diablo’s local impact.

— Wind and solar should be part of the climate solution, but they aren’t nearly enough on their own.

— Continued operation of Diablo Canyon will almost certainly require Pacific Gas & Electric to spend tens of millions of dollars on land conservation for up to 2,000 acres of land north of the plant in order to comply with the Clean Water Act. But if Diablo goes away, so too will this opportunity for significant new land conservation along California’s coast. 

— Diablo provides power to three million Californians on a patch of land the size of three football fields. Achieving the equivalent from a solar farm would require 145 times more land; from wind, 500 times more. 

You raise many questions about safety. Let me ask you something: are you a trained nuclear power plant safety inspector? I'm not. What I am able to do — as you and everyone reading this blog is able to do — is evaluate our regulatory agencies for their efficacy and independence. 

We should ask: 

— Is the agency independent or dependent on the companies its regulating? Is it low-performing and low-morale? Is it low-status compared to the entities its regulating? (Think credit agencies vs. big banks). Is it plagued by corruption scandals? Is it overly politicized?

Now, here are some facts about Nuclear Regulatory Commission:

— NRC is independent, effective and is considered one of the best regulatory agencies in the world. 

— NRC is governed by bi-partisan chair and commissioners selected by the President and Congress. NRC has "resident inspectors" on-location in every nuclear plant who report to NRC headquarters. 

— NRC staff are highly-trained, high-status and well-paid; they often work at NRC the entire career. 

— If a utility-operator tries to approach an NRC employee about employment, the employee must immediately report the interaction and, if interest in the proposition, be moved to a different job.

— The agency has been rated one of the "best places to work" in the federal government. It is overseen by the US Inspector General that enforces strong laws and strong ethics rules. 

— NRC staff and nuclear plant workers have whistle-blower protections that go above and beyond other industries and regulatory agencies. 

— NRC has a unique process, known as Differing Professional Opinion, that allows NRC staff to raise issues without fear of retaliation, and insures that their concerns will be vetted at the appropriate level. This function is highly valued by Congress, NRC and independent observers.   

— Ask yourself: do you really understand the comparative risk of Diablo vs. the other risks in your life, including driving, flying, exposure to sunlight, diet, exercise, alcohol consumption, etc? Are you worried about global warming a serious risk and if so how much confidence do you have in renewables given the above?

I am looking forward to your response and engagement on these substantive questions.

With best wishes,

Michael Shellenberger