On January 29, 2016, an international group of scientists, conservationists and philanthropists urged California's leaders and Pacific Gas & Electric to do all in their power to Save Diablo Canyon Power Plant so it can provide clean electricity for decades to come.

Signers include former Whole Earth Catalogue Founder, Stewart Brand; NASA climate scientist James Hansen; Santa Clara University conservation biologist Michelle Marvier; 1976 Nobel Prize winner Burton Richter; President Emeritus of the Missouri Botanical Center; Pulitzer-Prize winning historian Richard Rhodes; University of Wisconsin Nelson Center for the Environment Director, Paul Robbins.

January 29, 2016

The Honorable Governor Jerry Brown

The Honorable Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Chairperson, California Lands Commission

Mr. Michael Picker, Chairperson, California Public Utilities Commission

Mr. Robert Weisenmiller, Chairperson, California Energy Commission

Ms. Mary Nichols, Chairperson, California Air Resources Board

Ms. Effie Turnbull-Sanders, Chairperson, California Coastal Commission

Mr. Anthony Early, CEO Pacific Gas & Electric


Dear Governor Brown, Lt. Gov. Newsom, Chairperson Picker, Chairperson Weisenmiller, Chairperson Turnbull-Sanders, Chairperson Nichols, and Mr. Early,

We are writing as scientists, conservationists, and philanthropists to urge you to do everything in your powers to ensure that California’s last nuclear power plant, Diablo Canyon Power Plant, is relicensed.

In particular, we urge you to work together to expedite state regulatory approvals and eliminate redundant regulatory processes so that PG&E can request a renewal of Diablo Canyon’s operating license from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission. We urge you not to allow unrelated conflicts, politics, ideology or irrational fears to get in the way.

Diablo Canyon provided 22 percent of all the clean energy electricity generated in California in 2014. If closed, it will likely be replaced by natural gas and California’s carbon emissions will increase the equivalent of adding nearly two million cars to the road.

Closing Diablo Canyon would make it far harder to meet the state’s climate goals. Already, the percentage of electricity California generates from clean energy declined from 53 percent in 2011 to 38 percent in 2014. Without Diablo, California’s clean electricity generation would decline to 26 percent while electricity from natural gas would rise to 70 percent.

Declining electricity from clean energy sources, including hydro-electric dams, underscores the importance of nuclear, the only source of zero carbon power that is reliable no matter the weather or climate. In 2014, Diablo Canyon — a single power plant — produced 24 percent more electricity than all of California’s wind, and 33 percent more electricity than all of California’s solar.

Diablo Canyon produces twice as much power as all of California’s solar panels, and 40 times more than its largest solar farm.

Diablo Canyon has been repeatedly inspected, upgraded, certified, and re-certified as safe by the independent federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for three decades. Independent nuclear safety experts view Diablo Canyon as one of the best-run nuclear power plants in the world, and believe it is highly likely NRC would renew Diablo Canyon’s license to operate from 2025 to 2045.

While it is within the purview of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to assess the safety of Diablo Canyon, the CPUC has neither the technical expertise nor the political independence of the NRC. We encourage CPUC to limit its oversight to the minimum that fulfills its legitimate obligations in this area.

There is no reason why Diablo Canyon should require another environmental impact report (EIR), as Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who acts as chairman of the State Lands Commission, says he will request. California EIRs are warranted when new developments are under consideration or when an existing development wishes to make significant operational or design changes. Neither of those conditions has been met.

To protect the integrity of the EIR process, and not allow EIRs to be used in a selective or arbitrary way, we encourage the Lands Commission to reject the request for an EIR.

State environmental regulations of Diablo Canyon’s once-through-cooling should pose no obstacle to re-licensing as there are various low-cost mitigation options available to PG&E. Staff and consultants for the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) and PG&E have already identified options, such as the creation of an artificial reef and land conservation, as ways PG&E can mitigate its impact at a cost that would allow the plant to remain profitable.

Keeping Diablo Canyon open will result in greater protection for California’s spectacular natural environment, while closing it would reduce it. Today, the rocky intertidal area around Diablo Canyon is one of the most pristine in San Luis Obispo County owing to its protection from public use. The coastal exclusion zone around Diablo Canyon has thus served to protect 12 miles of valuable marine habitat and wildlife.

If Diablo goes away, so too will the possibility of land conservation purchased by PG&E for mitigation. And because Diablo Canyon’s land footprint is so small, it will very likely be replaced by electricity from power plants, whether fossil or renewable, whose footprint is much larger.

For its part, we encourage PG&E to publicly commit to seek the re-licensing of Diablo Canyon, and to agree to reasonable regulations, regulatory questioning and process, and to commit to invest in reasonable mitigation measures.

Diablo Canyon helps PG&E meet its commitment to providing clean, inexpensive and reliable electricity to Californians, as well as its fiduciary duty to its shareholders. Diablo Canyon is a reliable and profitable source of clean energy. While natural gas prices are at historic lows, they are unlikely to stay low. And moving from nuclear to natural gas would undermine PG&E’s commitment to clean energy.

We thank you all for your commitment to clean energy, conservation, and climate action, and hope you will see how protecting Diablo Canyon is in the best interests of California’s environment, economy and people, as well as our shared global climate.

We hope you will do all in your power to work with each other to expedite the regulatory and renewal process.



Climate and Conservation Scientists

Andrew Balmford, Professor of Conservation Science, University of Cambridge

Mark S. Boyce, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta

Barry Brook, Professor and Chair of Environmental Sustainability, University of Tasmania

Luigi Guido, Professor at Department of Biology and Biotechnologies Università di Roma Sapienza Viale Università 32, Roma, Italy

F Stuart Chapin III, Professor Emeritus of Ecology, Department of Biology and Wildlife, Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska, Fairbanks

Chris Dickman, conservation scientist, University of Sydney

David Dudgeon, Chair and Professor of Ecology and Biodiversity, School of Biological Sciences, University of Hong Kong, China

Erle Ellis, Professor, Geography & Environmental Systems University of Maryland

Kerry Emanuel, Professor of Atmospheric Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

James Hansen, Climate Science, Awareness, and Solutions Program, Columbia University, Earth Institute, Columbia University

Chris Johnson, Professor of Wildlife Conservation, University of Tasmania

David W. Keith, Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics for the Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School at Harvard University.

Lian Pin Koh, Chair of Applied Ecology and Conservation, Director, Unmanned Research Aircraft Facility (www.uraf.org) Australian Research Council Future Fellow II, Environment Institute, University of Adelaide

Charles J. Krebs, Emeritus Professor, Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia

William F. Laurance, PhD, FAA, FAAAS, FRSQ; Distinguished Research Professor & Australian Laureate; Prince Bernhard Chair in International Nature Conservation; Director of the Centre for Tropical Environmental and Sustainability Science

David W. Lea, Professor, Earth Science, University of California

Michelle Marvier, Professor, Environmental Studies and Sciences, Santa Clara University

Joe Mascaro, Program Manager for Impact Initiatives, Planet Labs

Robert May, Oxford OM AC Kt FRS, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford

Richard Muller, Professor of Physics, University of California, Berkeley; Co-Founder and Scientific Director, Berkeley Earth

Robin Naidoo, Adjunct Professor, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Reed Noss, Provost's Distinguished Research Professor, Department of Biology, University of Central Florida

Peter H. Raven, President Emeritus, Missouri Botanical Garden. Winner of the National Medal of Science, 2001

Burton Richter, Nobel Prize Winner, Physics, 1976

Paul Robbins, author, Political Ecology: A Critical Introduction; Director, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin

Cagan H. Sekercioglu, professor of conservation ecology, Department of Biology, University of Utah; former senior scientist at the Stanford University Center for Conservation Biology at the University of Utah.

Tom Wigley, Climate and Energy Scientist, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO

Stephen E. Williams, Centre for Tropical Biodiversity & Climate Change, College of Marine & Environmental Sciences, James Cook University, Australia

Conservationists and Philanthropists

Daniel Aegerter, Chairman, Armada Investment

Tom Blees, Executive Director, The Science Council

Stewart Brand, founder, Whole Earth Catalogue

Jeremy Carl, Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University

John Crary, Crary Family Foundation

Gwyneth Cravens, author, Power to Change the World

David Douglas, Partner, Applied Invention

Christopher Foreman, author, The Promise & Peril of Environmental Justice, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland

Valerie Gardner, Founder, Tiny Blue Dot; Chair, Atherton Environmental Programs Committee

William Gloeve, Californians for Green Nuclear Power

Kirsty Gogan, Executive Director, Energy for Humanity

Garrett Gruener, Managing Director, Gruener Ventures

Steve Hayward, Professor, Pepperdine University Graduate School of Public Policy

Ben Heard, President, Decarbonise South Australia

Steve Kirsch, CEO, Token

Joseph B. Lassiter, Senior Fellow, Senator John Heinz Professor of Management, Practice in Environmental Management, Harvard Business School

Martin Lewis, Department of History, Stanford University

Jessica Lovering, Director of Policy, Breakthrough Institute

Max Luke, MS Candidate, Technology & Policy, MIT, Research Associate, Utility of the Future Project, MIT Energy Initiative

Mark Lynas, author, The God Species

Lindsay Meisel, Breakthrough Generation, 2008

Norris McDonald, President, Center for Environment, Commerce & Energy

Elizabeth Muller, Elizabeth Muller, Founder and Executive Director, Berkeley Earth

Carl Page, President, Anthropocene Institute 

Steven Pinker, Harvard University, Better Angels of Our Nature

Rachel Pritzker, Pritzker Innovation Fund

Roland Pritzker, Pritzker Innovation Fund

Steve Rayner, James Martin Professor of Science & Civilization, Director, Institute for Science, Innovation & Society, Professorial Fellow, Keble College, University of Oxford

Ray Rothrock, Venture Capitalist, Partner Emeritus, Venrock

Richard Rhodes, Pulitzer-Prize winning author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb

Peter Schwartz, author, Art of the Long View

Robert Stone, co-founder, Energy for Humanity

Michael Shellenberger, co-author, Break Through, Time Magazine Hero of the Environment

Sam Thernstrom, Executive Director, Energy Innovation Reform Project

Stephen Tindale, Executive Director, Alvin Weinberg Foundation

Barrett Walker, Trustee, Alex C. Walker Foundation


Pacific Gas and Electric Board of Directors

Lewis Chew, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Dolby Laboratories, Inc.

Fred J. Fowler, Retired Chairman of the Board of, Spectra Energy Partners, LP

Richard C. Kelly, Retired Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Xcel Energy Inc.

Richard A. Meserve, President Emeritus, Carnegie Institution of Washington

Rosendo (Ro) G. Parra, Retired Senior Vice President of Dell Inc.

Anne Shen Smith, Retired Chairman and, Chief Executive Officer of Southern California Gas Company

Barry Lawson Williams President of Williams Pacific Ventures, Inc.

Barbara L. Rambo, Chief Executive Officer of Taconic Management Services

Forrest E. Miller, Retired Group Vice President, Corporate Strategy and Development of AT&T Inc.

Roger H. Kimmel, Vice Chairman of Rothschild Inc.

Maryellen C. Herringer , Retired Executive Vice President, General Counsel, and Secretary of APL Limited


Photo credit: John Lindsey