The recent op-ed regarding the Diablo Canyon nuclear reactors claims that there is “zero-carbon energy” produced by that PG&E facility.  However, nuclear reactors emit radioactive carbon-14, plus there are lots of fossil fuels in different parts of the nuclear fuel cycle such as powering uranium enrichment facilities.  In fact, nuclear power has the highest carbon emissions of any non-fossil fuel energy source.  Not only is Diablo not carbon or radioactive emission free, but it has a waste discharge permit allowing considerable thermal and heavy metal pollution into Diablo Cove.

The next paragraph of the op-ed criticized the shutdown of the Indian Point reactors on the Hudson River upstream from New York City.  A Sandia Labs study that emerged in late 1982 listed Indian Point reactors as the ones which could wreak the most property damage from a worst-case reactor accident.  The site was taken over during early days of the pandemic by the Holtec company after it got major subsidies to occupy its Camden, NJ, headquarters following their merger with a Canadian company convicted of bribery.  Holtec is taking over old reactors generally to finish shutting them down, do a shoddy cleanup job, and then pocket the quite lucrative decommissioning funds. Holtec has indicated they will not do any cleanup deeper than 6 feet at the Indian Point site.  That means the radioactive soil and groundwater related to the Hudson River system beneath that site will not be attempted to be cleaned up by Holtec. If they care that little about a well-known reactor complex on a beloved river upstream from New York City, they obviously do not care about any site in which they carry out activities.

But the other admission by Holtec is at least as scandalous – their executive Dr. Kris Singh said at the San Onofre Community Engagement Panel that his company’s canisters “cannot be inspected, re-packaged, or transported”.   Yet that company plans to ship defective containers (likely decades before it is safe to transport the waste) to the company’s own “Consolidated Interim Storage” radwaste site in southeastern New Mexico.  While much of the world has thick casks sometimes with steel 17 inches thick to store their radwaste, the U.S. NRC only offers our cheap-skate utilities thin canisters usually either ½ inch to 5/8 of an inch thick from which to choose.  The sites claiming to be “interim” are widely expected to become permanent if the companies start them up.    

Diablo Canyon should not be discussed without mentioning seismic setting, radwaste containers and high burn-up fuel which produces especially hot waste that needs to be vented.  How bright is it to allow radionuclides to escape along with some heat from the thin radwaste canisters, while allowing corrosive sea air to corrode the canisters overstuffed with 37 spent fuel rod assemblies?

Bruce Campbell, Los Angeles