'President' Newsom Goes Anti-Solar and Pro-Nuke With a Ticking Clock

Harvey Wasserman / Reader Supported News
'President' Newsom Goes Anti-Solar and Pro-Nuke With a Ticking Clock California governor Gavin Newsom, February 10, 2020. (photo: ABC News)

"Green” Gavin Newsom, the California governor who would be president, has gone intensely anti-solar and pro-nuke.

He now demands that by Wednesday night—-within 48 hours—-the state legislature approve keeping the Diablo Canyon nuclear reactors open indefinitely.

The shocking pro-nuke move comes parallel with the Governor’s attempt to tax rooftop solar out of existence. That decision could come from the CA. Public Utilities Commission within a month.

It’s an astonishing one-two punch that has deeply infuriated California's safe energy community.

Newsom says he needs Diablo to meet future energy demand. But there are a million rooftop solar arrays in a statewide wind/solar industry that employs some 70,000 workers (there are 1500 at Diablo Canyon). With new federal tax credits and other incentives, renewables are transforming the state, letting hundreds of thousands of households to produce their own clean, cheap energy and break away from the utility-owned grid.

Thus Newsom’s choice of an energy future based on atomic rather than solar energy has shocked the state.

Designed in the 1960s, the Diablo reactors have hosted more civil disobedience arrests than any other in the US. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has long since warned that Unit One is dangerously embrittled, a deep structural flaw that could turn a melt-down into an apocalyptic explosion.

NRC site inspector Dr. Michael Peck has warned that while just 45 miles from the San Andreas, the reactors can’t withstand credible seismic shocks from a dozen or more fault lines surrounding the site.

The rise of renewables has slashed Diablo’s ability to compete. Facing major losses and expensive upgrades, Pacific Gas & Electric helped convene a two-year series of public deliberations to plan a shut-down by 2024-5, when Diablo’s NRC licenses would expire.

The painstaking collaboration was crowned in 2016, when then-Lieutenant-Governor Newsom joined then-Governor Jerry Brown with PG&E and regulators, unions, local governments, environmental and citizens groups in mapping out a smooth transition to a renewable-based future.

Thousands of megawatts of green capacity were factored into the phase-out, guaranteeing California would avoid shortfalls while transitioning to solar, wind, batteries, efficiency. They would guarantee the state’s energy security while chasing its carbon-reduction targets.

Notable opposition came from the San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace, who still want an immediate shut-down.

In 2019 the Mothers also joined a broad coalition asking Newsom to conduct an independent inspection to evaluate the reactors’ safety. ( https://solartopia.org/blog-a-topia-2/shut-diablo-nukes/ )

Newsom has refused. He also wants to hand PG&E $1.4 billion in public money to keep Diablo operating for undetermined years to come.

In a very rushed process with no public hearings or inspections, Newsom’s move to cancel Diablo’s orderly phase-out has infuriated green activists, who view it as an autocratic, arbitrary and opportunistic betrayal.

Aside from six years of deferred maintenance, all that’s really changed since Diablo’s shut-down agreement is further deterioration of the reactors combined with dramatic rises in the cost-effectiveness of renewables, efficiency and battery storage technologies.

Newsom’s sudden support for 35-year-old reactors surrounded by earthquake faults with major structural flaws in a green state is widely seen as part of a presidential campaign ready to reap huge utility and nuke-powered donations.

Newsom says he fears shutting Diablo could cause embarrassing blackouts. But the reactors’ downtime is substantial. They regularly destabilize the statewide grid. And they can always blow up.

By contrast, a booming network of independently-owned battery systems recently helped avert a serious grid blackout.(http://acehoffman.org/sano/DCNPP_EnoughIsEnough20220829A.mp4 )

Like all US nukes, Diablo has no private insurance to compensate those harmed by a major disaster. If there are workable evacuation plans in the face of a radioactive cloud blowing into Los Angeles, the Central Valley or the Bay Area, they’ve not been made public.

But Newsom’s Diablo package does hand $2 billion or more to PG&E stockholders. Forcing Californians to pay for Diablo state-wide could sabotage Community Choice Aggregation districts, which the big utilities hate.

They also hate rooftop solar, which lets homeowners produce their own power and sell it back to the grid.

So heavily funded utility lobbyists are ramming a bevy of taxes and regulations onto the CPUC docket, designed to make photovoltaic cells unaffordable.

Ironically, Florida’s extreme right-wing Governor Ron DeSantis, a possible 2024 Newsom competitor for the White House, has just vetoed a parallel anti-green bill. In both California and Florida, public support for solar is in the range of 80%.

One can easily speculate on Newsom’s presidential and other motives for this double assault on a green-powered future.

But risking billions of public dollars on a dangerous, decrepit nuke plant while slashing rooftop solar certainly sends a message that Gavin Newsom is ready to serve the private utility industry long before the movement for green public power and a sustainable planet.



Harvey Wasserman’s Solartopia! Our Green-Powered Earth, and The People’s Spiral of US History are at www.solartopia.org. Most Mondays he convenes the Green Grassroots Emergency Election Protection zooms (www.electionprotection2024.org).

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