The Future of California's Last Nuclear Power Plant 加州最後一座核電廠前途未卜
At a gathering of nuclear professionals and enthusiasts in Anaheim, California, a couple of months ago, the tenor of the conversations about the Diablo Canyon Power Plant — California's last operating nuclear reactor — turned inconceivably hopeful.
The American Nuclear Society's convention, held for four days in the shadow of Mickey Mouse, could not have picked a better venue to uplift spirits. And no one flashed a bigger grin than Gene Nelson, a standout not just for his towering height but also for his signature headbands and his yearslong campaign to keep Diablo Canyon running beyond a planned shutdown by the end of 2025.
"I thought our chances were zero," Nelson, a government liaison for Californians for Green Nuclear Power, told the conference attendees about the effort to maintain nuclear power in the state. "What has happened since then, it's been like a snowball."
Pushing that snowball is Gov. Gavin Newsom. Although it seemed improbable that Diablo Canyon's supporters could overcome the numerous challenges to maintain the plant's operations, a lot has changed and those hurdles appear to be getting swallowed up in the growing clean energy movement.
Last month, Newsom proposed a measure that would provide a forgivable loan of $1.4 billion to the plant's owner to help resolve permitting, licensing and cost issues. The California Assembly would need to pass the legislation and have it signed in September to make the whole idea possible.
Even authors of a Stanford University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology report supporting the extension of Diablo Canyon noted that one of the two units had to be taken offline in 2020, the last time California experienced rolling blackouts. That has prompted some to urge caution.
"I was a little bit heartbroken by the governor's proposal," said Najmedin Meshkati, an engineering professor at the University of Southern California who has inspected many nuclear plants throughout the world. "The word safety is only mentioned once in passing. They really need to bend over backward and go the extra mile to ensure the safety and reliability issues."
The resumption of live performance after the long pandemic shutdown brought plenty to cheer about over the past year. But from regional theaters to Broadway, and from local orchestras to grand opera houses, performing arts organizations are reporting persistent drops in attendance.
Many presenters anticipate that the softer box office will extend into the upcoming season and perhaps beyond. And some fear that the virus is accelerating long-term trends that have troubled arts organizations for years, including softer ticket sales for many classical music events, the decline of the subscription model for selling tickets at many performing arts organizations, and the increasing tendency among consumers to purchase tickets at the last minute.
The concert industry, which attracts younger patrons than many other performing arts sectors, has been a real bright spot. Live Nation, the global concert giant, recently reported that it had sold 100 million tickets for the full year, more than in 2019.
But scattered hits and crowded concerts can distract from the reality that, for most classical and theatrical institutions and shows, attendance is down, ticket prices are depressed, productions are fewer, and memberships or subscriptions have fallen.
Broadway offers the most obvious (and stark) evidence of diminished attendance and its economic consequences. During the 2021-22 season, which started slow and late as the industry gradually reopened, there were 6,860 performances seen by 6.7 million people, grossing $845 million. By contrast, during the 2018-19 season, the last full season before the pandemic, there were 13,590 performances seen by 14.8 million people, grossing $1.8 billion.
"I'd be a liar if I said I was happy," said Brian Kelsey, managing director of Peninsula Players Theatre in Door County, Wisconsin. "I don't know if people are out of the habit or unaware or if the clientele that had come is now more interested in outdoor beer gardens, I just know that we're definitely seeing a downturn."