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Scientists, elected officials rally against closure of Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant

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Rachel Showalter
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The group gathered in front of San Luis Obispo Superior Court to fight to delay the closure of the Diablo Canyon Power Plant.

A group of scientists, climate activists and elected officials gathered Saturday in front of San Luis Obispo Superior Court to protest against the planned 2025 closure of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant.

Hundreds gathered to launch an effort to delay the power plant’s closure — citing the need to maintain clean energy sources in the fight against climate change.

According to Pacific Gas & Electric, the utility that owns the facility, Diablo Canyon produces enough energy annually for three million homes. It is California’s single largest source of emission-free electricity.

“Closing down Diablo Canyon would be the same as getting rid of almost half of all solar panels in California,” said nuclear energy activist Isabelle Boemeke.

Boemeke said renewable energy production isn’t happening fast enough to replace Diablo Canyon’s energy production. She said this could make the state temporarily more reliant on fossil fuels after the plant’s planned decommission.

A recent study out of Stanford and MIT found that if Diablo Canyon was kept operating through 2045, it could reduce the state’s reliance on natural gas, save up to $21 billion in power system costs and save 90,000 acres of land use from energy production.

The study also outlined a strategy to retrofit the plant for desalination and clean hydrogen production.

SLO County Supervisor Dawn Ortiz-Legg spoke at the rally. She said she understands the fear behind nuclear power and the desire to shut down Diablo Canyon. But after seeing the study, Ortiz-Legg said she wants people to reconsider the future of the plant.

“In good conscience, I could not close my eyes to the information in the report and stay silent," Ortiz-Legg said. "Even if I do not have any authority to say 'live or die,' regarding Diablo, I do have the ability to respectfully ask for the conversation. And that’s what we’re doing here.”

Heather Hoff and Kristin Zaitz work at Diablo Canyon and started the group Mothers for Nuclear in 2016, when the decision was made to decommission the plant. Zaitz said the two women didn’t always support nuclear power, but changed their minds.

“We, we are going to fight for a different answer," Zaitz said. "As Dawn said, we are going to stay curious. We are going to ask the questions. We want action on climate. We want it now. There is time to save Diablo Canyon. Just keep raising your voices.”

In a statement to KCBX News, PG&E said its plans for the power plant have not changed and that the utility’s focus remains on safely and reliably operating the plant until the end of its licenses, which expire in 2024 and 2025.

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Rachel Showalter first joined KCBX as an intern from Cal Poly in 2017. During her time in college, she anchored and reported for Mustang News at Cal Poly's radio station, KCPR. After graduating, she took her first job as a Producer at KSBY-TV. She returned to the KCBX team in October 2020 and now reports daily for KCBX News. Rachel spends her off-days climbing rocks, cooking artichokes and fighting crosswords with friends.
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