A passionate call to save Diablo Canyon

May 20, 2022, 9:30AMANS Nuclear Cafe

In a recent opinion piece for the San Luis Obispo Tribune, Heather Hoff describes her conversion from nuclear energy skeptic to advocate and lays out the case for keeping the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant open beyond its planned closure in 2025.

Hoff, who is an operations procedure writer at Diablo Canyon, tells how she spent years "excessively and sometimes annoyingly" investigating her concerns about the safety of nuclear after she was first hired at Diablo Canyon. She adds that she almost quit her job after the Fukushima accident until realizing that many concerns about that event were triggered by "fear of nuclear, rather than nuclear itself.”

Heather Hoff in the control room.

Fear factor: Hoff notes that the nuclear industry has done a disservice by trying to convince the public that, "We’re so safe because . . . ."

While the industry is safe, it "somehow still manages to make the reassurances sound scary,” she said. Still, she reasons, “scary is not the same as dangerous. The more I learn about the complexities of energy and our California electric grid, the more convinced I am that we must not let irrational fears and misinformation be the reason we dismiss 15 percent of our state’s clean electricity," she said.

More natural gas? After Hoff points out that even California’s “liberal administration” is recognizing the importance of nuclear energy, she writes that when nuclear plants shut down, they are replaced primarily with fossil fuels. "This is negative progress for our climate and air pollution," she said. "It is digging an even bigger hole.”

Hoff points to the state’s having made only “limited progress” in adding renewable energy sources to the grid system, and she fears the same consequence as happened when the San Onofre nuclear plant was shut down: Its output was replaced by natural gas.

Already, some reports claim that California officials are planning to replace Diablo Canyon’s power “mostly with Wyoming coal-fired generation.”

The right thing: Hoff has come a long way from her environmentalist, nuclear-skeptic beginnings, even cofounding advocacy group Mothers for Nuclear. She has been profiled in the media for her conversion from doubter to supporter, and she vows to not give up trying to keep Diablo Canyon operating even if they start dismantling it. “Even then, we could put equipment back, rebuild systems," she said. "For something that is so obviously the right thing to do [keeping it open], why would we not go to extreme lengths, change laws, and even harder, change our minds to support it?”

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