Bargaining with the Devil – Dissecting Diablo Delusions – Part 2 – Updated

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Nuclear Revivalism as a Religious Cult of ‘True Believers’

‘Meltdown at Diablo’ – ArtOfMark Bryan-com

“The failure of the U.S. nuclear power program ranks as the largest managerial disaster in business history, a disaster on a monumental scale … only the blind, or the biased, can now think that the money has been well spent. It is a defeat for the U.S. consumer and for the competitiveness of U.S. industry, for the utilities that undertook the program and for the private enterprise system that made it possible.” – Forbes Magazine- 1985

“Regardless of one’s views of the social values of nuclear power … as a business proposition nuclear stinks. The business case for existing nukes in the U.S. is also ominous… This comes on top of multiple closings of U.S. nukes unable to compete in competitive markets in recent years, state subsidies in Illinois and New York to keep uneconomic plants open, and threats of even more shutdowns… If it weren’t for actions by state governments in Illinois and New York, the picture would look worse.“ – Power Engineering Magazine – 2017

You have to understand, the nuclear industry and the people that run it have a religious belief in nuclear power. So facts don’t interfere. You know, religion is belief. They believe in nuclear power.” – S. David Freeman – 2012

By Mary Beth Brangan and James Heddle – EON

‘Save Diablo’s’ Delusional Dimensions

This series is based on our research for participation in a recent Zoom workshop on the current push by nuclear proponents to extend the operation of PG&E’s two Diablo Canyon nuclear reactors beyond their scheduled respective shutdown dates in 2024 and 2025 – – an agreement approved by the California Public Utilities Commission, large majorities in both Houses of the California Legislature, and which Newsom himself had boasted about helping to broker when he was lieutenant governor. It was affirmed by Senate Bill 1090 signed by then-Governor Jerry Brown in 2018.

The full title of the 2016 agreement is “Joint Proposal of Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Friends of the Earth, Natural Resources Defense Council, environment California, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245, Coalition of California Utility Employees and Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility to Retire Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant at Expiration of the Current Operating Licenses and Replace it with a Portfolio of GHG Free Resources.”

The ‘Save Diablo’ campaign not only violates the existing agreement between the utility and citizen organizations, but also requires major exemptions from and revisions in both state and federal laws.

If you can’t or won’t comply with the law, just attempt to change it.

Devilish Details

Ana Matosantos, Cabinet Secretary at the California Governor’s office apparently crafted the legal language of the required exemptions and revisions necessary to extend the plant’s functioning for an indefinite period. In a Joint Agency Remote Access Workshop held on August 12, 2022, she presented what appeared to be an unscripted articulation of the proposal, demonstrating her familiarity with the issues involved.

The eleventh hour plan, launched in the final weeks of California’s 2022 legislative session ending August 31st, calls for the U.S. Department of Energy to extend an offer for part of a $1.6 million pot of money for operating subsidies for economically distressed nuclear plants to Diablo Canyon under the Civil Nuclear Credit Program. Diablo does not meet the criteria for ‘financially distressed’ under this program.

In addition, another major feature of the Governor’s Proposal is to offer a “forgivable loan” from the state’s General Fund to PG&E – essentially a grant – of up to $1.4 billion to cover the costs “associated with the relicensing” of Diablo Canyon. Although the Governor’s Proposal referred to a “limited term extension,” the fine print calls for the Public Utilities Commission to consider an extension for as long as ten years, until October 31, 2035.

Now that extension has reportedly been extended to 20 years – in order to justify the extremely high expenses involved in reversing the shutdown process at this late date.

Gov. Newsom’s Cabinet Secretary, Ana Matosantos – Workshop screen capture

The clearly brilliant Ms. Matosantos has reportedly been the brain behind California governors from Arnold Schwarzenegger , Jerry Brown, and most recently as Gavin Newsom’s Cabinet Secretary.

Ms. Matosantos is scheduled to leave the Governor’s office at the end of August. So vital have been her services, one recent article was titled, “What Happens When the ‘Indispensable Insider’ of Sacramento Steps Down? .   The article asks, “Can state government survive without her?”

If her alleged multi-pronged law-changing strategy succeeds, she will have left quite a legacy.

Zoom Marathon

In the Zoom call – that went on for 5-and-a-half hours, and was reportedly attended by more than 600 participants – several officials made presentations on the issues.

In case you missed it, the recording of the full event is available with an audio transcript here.

California Senator John Laird thoughtfully laid the background history and the twelve issues that, in his mind, will need to be thoroughly addressed. Senator Laird represents the 17th State Senate District, including all of Santa Cruz and San Luis Obispo counties, the majority of Monterey County, and parts of Santa Clara County. A transcript of his full statement is here.

His list of gnarly issues included:

  1. Safety
  2. Who pays?
  3. Spent Nuclear Storage
  4. Seismic Studies
  5. Once Through Cooling Violations
  6. Permitting Requirement
  7. Community Transition Funding
  8. Diablo Canyon Lands Returned to Community Use
  9. Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary
  10. Date Certain Uncertainties
  11. Offshore Wind Development Plans
  12. Marshall Plan for Renewables Development

Senator Laird concluded, “I don’t see a pathway to Diablo’s Canyon continued operation unless each of these elements is addressed.  No proposal can be complete without that….” That suggests that, as Grandma used to say, “Many a slip between cup and lip.”  There’s a boulder-strewn thicket of red tape impediments to get through to keep Diablo making more deadly nuclear waste radioactive virtually forever.

Succeeding speakers from the California Energy Commission and the California Independent Systems Operator (CAISO) presented what seemed to many viewers to be a cheery, if subtle, sales pitch for extension, laced with repeated protestations that ‘assured safety’ is their overriding priority.

It is worth noting here that CAISO is not, as its name implies, a government agency. According to Dun & Bradstreet, it is a corporation and is part of “the Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services Industry.” It is a business with contractual obligations to export electricity to other states. That’s why it is said to be mainly responsible for the August 2020 blackouts. It had reportedly miscalculated its demand projections and, although it had the capacity to meet California’s sudden in-state demand, it had instead sent the power out of state in order to fulfill its existing business contracts. This could happen again, with or without Diablo in operation.

Please watch the video and read the transcript and draw your own conclusions.

What we see as a charm offensive was supported by glossy graphics based on hypothetical modeling purporting to show that, without Diablo’s output, California’s energy supply may well be doomed very soon.

Workshop screen capture purporting to show looming energy shortfall without Diablo.

This is a myth that will not die.

Graphic credit: Women’s Energy Matters based on government data.

As far back as 2013, the late Barbara George, Founder/Director of Womens Energy Matters, described in our video California’s Unnecessary Nukes her discoveries as a professional intervenor on behalf of the public interest at the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), showing private utilities’ resistance to energy efficiency, conservation and clean energy technologies in a state that already had an excess of power – without nuclear reactors.

Diablo is No Protection Against Blackouts

That was then, and this is now. Figures have changed.

Proponents of extending Diablo Canyon’s operation for up to 20 more years argue that the plant’s two aging and embrittled reactors, located over 13 intersecting earthquake faults in a tsunami zone, operated by serial felon Pacific Gas & Election (PG&E) are necessary backups to prevent power outages in the state.

But the following chart, created by Donna Gilmore of based on official government data, conclusively demonstrates that relying on Diablo as a buffer against blackouts is a foolish course.

Diablo is not a dependable power source.

It averages one or both reactors being shutdown 40% of every year. 

‘Saving Diablo’ Means Gambling with California’s Economy and Safety.

Graphic: Donna Gilmore –

Public Comments

In the recent Diablo Zoom workshop, following the official statements, the duration of the marathon meeting was filled with 2-minute public comments from remote attendees.

According to viewer and testifier Jan Boudart of Illinois’ Nuclear Energy Information Service (, her tabulation showed that, “About 95 made comments: 48 were in favor of keeping it open, 51.6%; 42 were in favor of closing it, 44.1%; 4, I couldn’t tell their opinion, 4.3%.” This would show the effectiveness of the ‘Save Diablo’ campaign’s year long, well-funded psyop propaganda begun in 2016 by recent unsuccessful candidate for governor, Michael Shellenberger. Other viewers observed that many of those who spoke in favor of the proposal could be seen to have personal vested interests in nuclear energy.

National Implications

The fact that so many participants Zoomed in from around the country suggests that citizens as well as corporate strategists see famously anti-nuclear California as the identified bellwether state with a target on its back.  The motto, “As goes California, so goes the country” takes on ominous implications.

As the nationwide push to bailout nuclear utilities and put aging reactors on life support goes forward, cracking California is seen by revivalists as a keystone in their agenda.

Incentives even included a last-minute offer from Gov. Gavin Newsom to give Pacific Gas & Electric Co. a $1.4-billion ‘forgivable loan.’ Desperate nuclear recidivism in action.

The attempt to extend Diablo Canyon’s operation in defiance of citizen opposition, public safety and common sense demonstrates two things:

  • Nuclear energy is a quintessentially totalitarian and anti-democratic technology
  • Nuclear Revivalism is a religious cult

The late S. David Freeman – who executed more nuclear plant shutdowns in his career than any other nuclear administrator – put it this way:

“You have to understand, the nuclear industry and the people that run it – and I say this advisedly – they have a religious belief in nuclear power.

“So facts don’t interfere. You know, religion is belief.

“They believe in nuclear power, and I’ll tell you how it came about.

“It started off as a guilt trip.

“We got the bomb in World War 2, and President Truman said – right after he found out about it, he said – ‘We’ve got to make something good out of this evil.’

“And so the whole nation started off with civilian nuclear power plants as a gigantic guilt trip.

“And so we overlooked the dangers inherent in it, and we thought we were doing something good.

Freeman knew whereof he spoke from a lifetime of experience.

Freeman was involved in the negotiations that led to the Diablo shutdown agreement – approved by California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the California Legislature and supported by then Lt. Gov. Newsom – which, Newsom and the nuclear revivalist cultists are now attempting to violate.

Freeman would no doubt strongly advise against it.

We were privileged to shoot video interviews with him in his various roles twice in the course of our documentary productions. In his last interview with us he warned, “We need to phase out and shut down the 104 reactors in America. I will put it very bluntly. We need to kill them before they kill us.” [Emphasis Added]

Freeman was not the only one to identify the cultish aspects of pro-nuclearism.

A Well-Timed Limited Hangout

As if on cue, on August 3, 2022, The New Yorker published Daniel Ford’s article How Safe Are Nuclear Power Plants?.

The subtitle reads: “A new history reveals that federal regulators consistently assured Americans that the risks of a massive accident were “vanishingly small”—even when they knew they had insufficient evidence to prove it.”

New Yorker staff writer Ford is no stranger to nuclear chicanery, having served as executive director of the Union of Concerned Scientists from 1972 to 1979.

He has also published a number of papers, articles and books on the topic, including his 1992 book The Cult of the Atom: The Secret Papers of the Atomic Energy Commission, based on government documents obtained in an intensive FOIA investigation. The AEC was the discredited precursor agency to the current Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

So, Mr. Ford is eminently qualified to review in his timely New Yorker article the 2021 US Government publication by Prof. Thomas Wellock, the official historian of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (N.R.C.). entitled “Safe Enough? A History of Nuclear Power and Accident Risk.”

Ford notes, “During my on-the-record interview with Wellock, a Nuclear Regulatory Commission public-relations officer sat in, and said that Wellock could answer questions about historical matters but not current agency policy.”

Nevertheless, Ford finds Wellock’s book, “a refreshingly candid account of how the government, from the nineteen-forties onward, [ which] approached the bottom-line question posed in the book’s title.”

Says Ford:

Wellock’s book proffers no evidence that anyone inside the A.E.C. was involved in a criminal conspiracy to hide the risks posed by nuclear plants; he is the agency historian, after all, and not a prosecutor. Instead, there seemed to be an abundance of hubris and cult-like true-believing in the idea of a nuclear future in which the risk of a catastrophic accident was accepted, as a matter of doctrine, to be very low.

Ford also interviewed a former agency staffer named Thomas Murley, who went on to become a director of nuclear reactor regulation at the N.R.C.. Murley told Ford, “We all believed our own bullshit back then.”

What about now? Has anything changed? The current delusional Diablo extension discussions would suggest it has not.

Ford notes:

In the early seventies, the A.E.C. predicted that there would be a thousand nuclear reactors operating in the country by 2000—an estimate that would turn out to be off by a thousand percent, give or take.

In our minds, this is a tribute to the effectiveness of informed public pushback, just like what’s happening now in relation to Diablo.

Perhaps the most telling story in Ford’s article comes from his own experience.

In the seventies, an executive with the utility company Florida Power & Light told me that his company had adopted nuclear power so that its leaders wouldn’t be embarrassed on the golf course by other C.E.O.s who had done so.

This suggests that groupthink, social peer pressures, political expediency and going-along-to-get-along are the main determinants of nuclear policy – not rigorous scientific, engineering and ethical principals.

According to Ford:

Wellock’s book notes that some analysts have put forward rough statistics based on the history of the worldwide nuclear industry: the world’s reactors have now been in operation for more than fourteen thousand “reactor-years,” and to date there have been “five core-damage accidents”—Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and the three reactors at Fukushima. These numbers, in a back-of-the-envelope sense, suggest that the world should expect one full or partial meltdown every six to seven years. If that estimate is plausible—Wellock presents no challenge to it—then the worldwide nuclear program is slightly overdue for its next big surprise.

On this basis, Ford suggests, “The next meltdown, arithmetically speaking, is just around the corner; the only issue I cannot resolve is where it will occur.”

His top candidates? One of the French nuclear reactors massively afflicted with stress-corrosion cracking, or our country’s most embrittled reactor at Diablo Canyon in Californi

In our next and final installment of this series, The Case Against Extension, we look at why he’s right to point at Diablo. Please stay tuned….


Mary Beth Brangan and James Heddle co-direct the EON, the Ecological Options Network, a 501 (c) 3 organization. The EON feature documentary SOS – The San Onofre Syndrome will be released later this year.

Brangan and Heddle have been reporting on Diablo for over a decade. A page listing links to EON’s series of video reports documenting Diablo’s recent history as it happened can be viewed here.