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Alternatives are out there 

Nuclear isn't the only non-carbon-emitting round-the-clock energy producer

The recent opinion piece by Mark Henry ("A convenient untruth," Sept. 12) suggesting a conspiracy between the fossil fuel interests and renewable energy proponents to thwart nuclear power is a reach that is difficult to square with reality or to read with a straight face. I had no idea that ExxonMobil and the Sierra Club were so close.

While the commentary recognizes the threat of climate change, defining nuclear power as "renewable" will not and should not prolong the life of the Diablo Canyon Power Plant. It is among many others in the U.S. and internationally that have reached the end of their useful lives and are being shut down. Aside from safety, decommissioning, and waste management concerns, nuclear power is no longer economically competitive with wind and solar power.

Henry also suggests that building more wind and solar power sources will require storage that will be costly and difficult. It is ironic, then, that at the time when Diablo Canyon was built, PG&E had the same problem—too much power to sell. They solved that problem by building the Helms hydroelectric pumped storage facility. This installation of dams and reversible turbines uses power to pump water into high lakes when there is excess cheap power on the grid, then generates power to sell when it is expensive. This allowed Diablo to operate at full capacity while storing the excess.

Currently, there is the hydro-power capacity of six Diablo Canyon plants in California. Some of these plants operate continuously, which is why I was surprised by the statement, "The only proven feasible around-the-clock, non-carbon-emitting power production possibility is nuclear."

We are fortunate to have a string of hydro plants in the Sierras that could be modified for pumped storage of wind and solar power. Conversion of a part of this system to pumped storage would greatly reduce the need for power derived from natural gas.

Another power storage option of the near future that was neglected is electric cars. It is projected that electric cars will become common in California in a few years. It should be recognized that the batteries in these vehicles will present a huge potential for storage of power. These cars will have ranges of more than 200 miles but most of the time will be parked at home or work. It is certain that there will be systems developed to allow for this unused capacity to be plugged into the grid.

Dr. Helen Caldicott suggested that the solar energy falling on just a small area of the Earth's surface would power the world. She made that statement to illustrate the magnitude of the solar energy the Earth receives. The sun is the only nuclear power plant we should be using.

The Green New Deal is a start. Δ

Franklin Frank writes from Atascadero. Send a response in a letter to the editor and email it to

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