Get Ready to March For … Nuclear Energy?

Diablo Canyon

If truth is stranger than fiction, it should come as no surprise that Friday marks the start of the first-ever pro-nuclear power march — probably in world history — and it all starts in San Francisco.

The March for Environmental Hope, a four-day trek from the City by the Bay to Sacramento, is being pitched as a family-friendly event — and in this case that means more than funnel cakes and bounce houses.

Organizers are hoping to tug on the collective heart strings of America by making this about the children, as in leaving them with a less-polluted Earth. And it might work.

In a somewhat head-scratching about-face, environmentalists have more and more in recent years turned to nuclear power as the future of clean energy. That link is a lot less complex than the nation’s power grid, even if the reasoning has some holes.

And the timing of the march is important. Today, PG&E is expected to announce that it will close California’s last nuclear power plant, Diablo Canyon in San Luis Obispo, in 2024. Two organizers of the march work at Diablo Canyon. One of the arguments for saving nuclear is that natural gas will replace it. Natural gas is ugly, no matter what the industry says. It’s also already heavily used in California and elsewhere — where do you think all that electricity for electric cars comes from? (Hint: your Tesla runs on natural gas.)

Alas, nothing is perfect, and nuclear energy is no exception.

While it’s emissions-free, it can do great harm to the environment. And when a nuclear plant sits atop an earthquake zone next to an ocean — which is the case with Diablo Canyon and it’s four surrounding fault lines — visions of Fukushima dance in our heads. It’s a safe bet no one wants Diablo Canyon radiation detected across the Pacific Ocean five years after an earthquake-fueled disaster

No one wants billions of fish eggs destroyed either. But that’s what happens every year with Diablo Canyon’s seawater intake-outtake operation to cool the turbines in the reactors.

The March for Environmental Hope actually begins in Oakland and then heads to San Francisco, before going back to Oakland and then onward toward Sacramento. A new way forward or progress in reverse?

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