David Brower, founder Friends of the Earth

Opposition to Diablo Canyon started before it was constructed, by Friends of the Earth (FOE), a political action group founded by activist David Brower in 1969, over concerns about earthquake safety. Brower, who was against nuclear power in general, split with the Sierra Club over the Club’s position on the Diablo Canyon Power Plant. The Club helped block PG&E’s plan for a nuclear power plant at Bodega Bay over concerns of the earthquake danger from the nearby San Andreas Fault, and supported moving the site to Diablo Canyon.  Brower believed that nuclear power was a dangerous mistake at any location, and opposed Diablo Canyon, in defiance of the Club’s official policy. Browser’s ideology was opposition to nuclear power this has become an existential issue for them so they need to claim it is unsafe regardless of the science. They have ignored the recent seismic studies making them out of touch with reality on this issue. 

According to FOE, knowledge of earthquakes and faults near Diablo Canyon was insufficient at the time of construction.   There have been expensive studies over the last 45 years expanding current knowledge of the seismic risks, new faults, and engineering evaluations and improvement. All studies to date have confirmed the safety of the plant. The current review by third party independent experts evaluated the safety during extreme events on multiple faults, however FOE have not updated their beliefs.

Friends of the Earth has stayed firm in their ideology, and have not shifted their position on seismic safety with respect to new knowledge and testing since 1969, but instead have expanded their opposition to include environmental concerns about Diablo Canyon cooling water, and the cost of electricity.  Their ideology is based on perceived risk and threats to the environment, and they oppose fossil fuels, nuclear power, hydroelectric dams, and biofuels in general.  FOE states on their website that “Friends of the Earth promotes conservation and clean energy — including wind, solar and geothermal power — and why we fight to end our unhealthy dependence on dirty sources including coal, oil, nuclear and biofuels.”

The ideological labeling from political groups like FOE, prevent them from focusing on actual environmental problems such as greenhouse gases and climate change as issues. Prejudiced ideologic opposition to a label, such as nuclear power or biofuel,  does not solve any environmental problem with those topics, and assumes that problems can never be solved.  Ideologic positioning closes the door to science, new data and knowledge such as the case of Diablo Canyon with negative consequences for all of us.