I can’t be the only one who was slightly discombobulated Tuesday evening when my phone vibrated, alerting me to a severe emergency.
My first thought was a kidnapping followed by the possibility of an earthquake. Calmly, I fumbled for my readers and deciphered the following message, “Conserve energy now to protect public health and safety. Extreme heat is straining the state energy grid…blah blah blah.”
Yikes. It’s bad enough we have water woes but now we can’t even manage our power grid in a state whose people invented crazy good ideas like Uber, ApplePay, and Airbnb. Almighty Mother Nature is more powerful than mere mortals like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Airbnb’s founding fathers Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia.
Ironically, I was getting our little Airbnb tidy for guests with my EGO, an electric blower I purchased from the local Ace Hardware store, when my phone vibrated with the severe alert message. I ran inside to set the thermostat to 80 degrees and unplugged my EGO battery charger, deciding that leaves were the least of my problems at 6 p.m. with temperatures holding steady at 108 degrees.
I went inside, closed the blinds to this little house we bought when the kids were all students at Notre Dame’s K-8 school in Chico, and reflected on the words of their amazing Jr. High Science teacher, Darcy Lawson.
All sources of energy have advantages and disadvantages. Fossil fuels are the most reliable but create pollution and could eventually run out. Wind is not always reliable, kills wildlife and is expensive to set up. The same rules apply to solar but its output potential does not always pay for the initial installation and ongoing maintenance. Hydropower is expensive to install and unreliable in drought conditions, as we are all painfully aware.
Did I mention nuclear power? Other than fossil fuel, it is the only other reliable energy source that is independent, according to the website, BBC.org.
Maybe readers will remember a column I wrote in February about the Olympic ski venue in China and how it resembled Diablo Canyon’s nuclear power plant.
The day after my column ran in this newspaper, I got an email from Heather Hoff, co-founder of Mothers for Nuclear, asking me to reconsider my thoughts on nuclear energy.
“I’m not sure how much you know about nuclear,” Hoff wrote in her email. “But it generally has the lowest impact on our planet of all our electricity sources. Diablo specifically is a beautiful plant, generating 15 percent of California’s emission-free electricity on a tiny footprint of land, surrounded by thriving nature.”
OK, she has a valid point.
“The plant you reference in your article is a steel manufacturing plant,” she responds and leaves me to wonder two things:
1. How did she even find my column when my own friends and family can’t even read it without a subscription and 2. She must have researched the Chinese Olympic venue to make sure it wasn’t a nuclear power plant.
At this point, I began to really like this Heather Hoff lady. Not only did she dig deeper than I into China’s unimpressive venue, she is passionate. And I like passionate people — a lot.
Even though I thought my column was more akin to “America is better than China,” I like her push to convince me to research nuclear energy.
Hoff wants everyone to know Diablo Canyon has no cooling towers. “It uses ocean water for cooling,” she emphasized.
Finally, she sent me a poster created by her organization promoting nuclear energy. She admits it took her a long time to change her mind and start advocating for nuclear energy as a tool to address climate change and reduce emissions.
When I think of nuclear energy, it is difficult not to think of Chernobyl. When the film girl’s documentary about a cottage bread baker made the film festival rounds, so did a documentary by a Japanese filmmaker, “Fukushima.” It was powerful and I saw it one too many times.
My son gave a TED talk in high school about the benefits of nuclear energy right after the Camp Fire. His timing was spot on and many of his points in 2018 make perfect sense today.
This week, Assemblyman James Gallagher posted on his website the sources of energy California uses today. Almost 55 percent of California uses natural gas, followed by Imports at 17.5 percent, Hydro at 9.3 percent, Renewables at 7.2 percent, Batteries at 6.5 percent, and Nuclear at 4.7 percent.
“I hope you’ll refrain from (even inadvertently) throwing nuclear power under the bus,” she concluded. “It’s my best hope for our future as humanity on this planet.”
My son couldn’t agree more and I am warming up to the idea. If you’re curious, go ahead and follow their group and all its educational forums and discussions at https://mothersfornuclear.org. On Twitter, @moms4nuclear; Facebook and Instagram at mothersfornuclear.
In the meantime, let’s do our part to keep the power grid cruising for at least another week.
Shanna Long is a fourth generation journalist and former editor of the Corning Daily Observer. She and her husband reside in Corning and farm almonds, walnuts and prunes. She can be reached at email@example.com, instagram @sjolong.