Woke California, US Falling Behind China on Gen IV Nukes

February 23, 2022 Updated: February 23, 2022


California and the United States in general should be leading in developing Generation IV nuclear power reactors. Instead, it’s China.

Headlined Power Magazine earlier this month, “China Starts Up First Fourth-Generation Nuclear Reactor.” The story: “The first of two units at China’s much-watched high-temperature gas-cooled modular pebble bed (HTR-PM) demonstration project was successfully connected to the grid on Dec. 20. The achievement marks a major milestone for fourth-generation advanced nuclear technology.”

This is crucial because Gen IV is the future not just of nuclear power, but electricity generation. Gen IV is a major development over previous generations because it also makes power from its own nuclear waste, and meltdowns are impossible because an accident leads to the reactor shutting down, instead of going critical. Thus, it would prevent accidents such as Three Mile Island in 1979, Chernobyl in 1986, and Fukushima in 2011.

Not just Republicans, but President Biden and the 2020 Democratic National Platform have backed Gen IV nuclear power. The latter, for the first time since the Democrats’ 1972 platform, endorses nukes in a passage supporting “all zero-carbon technologies, including hydroelectric power, geothermal, existing and advanced nuclear, and carbon capture and storage.” Even Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), leader of The Squad of liberal representatives, has said her Green New Deal “leaves the door open on nuclear so that we can have that conversation.”

Unfortunately, California’s only remaining nuclear power plant, at Diablo Canyon, is scheduled to be shut down in 2025. Of course it’s not a Gen IV plant. Yet it is still structurally sound. And the attitude toward it reflects general state policy toward all nuclear power.

Yet a study from November 2021 by scientists at Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology recommended it be kept open until 2035. It’s called “An Assessment of the Diablo-Canyon Nuclear Plant for Zero-Carbon Electricity, Desalination, and Hydrogen Production.”

As the title indicates, the scientists consider nuclear power to be a “zero-carbon” source of electricity, which it obviously is. It found:

“Even assuming rapid and unconstrained buildout of renewable energy, the continued operation of Diablo Canyon would significantly reduce California’s use of natural gas for electricity production from 2025 to 2035 by approximately 10.2 TWh [terawatt hour; which is 1 trillion watt hours] per year. In doing so, Diablo Canyon would also reduce California carbon emissions by an average of 7 Mt [metric tons of] CO2 a year from 2025-2035, corresponding to an 11 percent reduction in CO2from the electricity sector relative to 2017 levels, for a cumulative total of 35 Mt CO2from 2025-2030 alone …

“To achieve a zero-carbon economy, California will likely need hundreds of millions of kilograms of hydrogen-based, zero-carbon fuels annually. Hydrogen is currently produced from unabated natural gas, which results in significant carbon emissions. As with renewables, producing hydrogen from nuclear energy results in no carbon emissions …

“Ultimately, regardless of the availability of various sources of renewables, the value of Diablo Canyon as a clean firm resource in California’s decarbonized grid is robust. Having more offshore wind does not significantly diminish the value of Diablo Canyon, further emphasizing that they are not necessarily competing resources, but resources that can complement each other in achieving cost-effective decarbonization.

The Stanford-MIT study concerned Diablo Canyon and did not take up Gen IV nuclear power. But the continued utility of that older site shows the promise of Gen IV plants, should they come online in the coming decades.

China Isn’t ‘Woke’

But who is going to develop and build the new plants? In technology, the first to market usually dominates the industry. Technology this advanced requires promoting the smartest people not only at the top positions, but also at the crucial mid-level engineering positions.

China’s control by the Chinese Communist Party suppresses crucial civil liberties, which brings its own limitations. But the party is hellbent on advancing technology in all areas, including nuclear power generation. For science, at least, it is a strong meritocracy.

By contrast, the United States for a decade has fallen into a paroxysm of “wokeism.” Even science now is subject to criteria based on political factors instead of merit. A year ago in May, the University of California, the world’s premiere state-run system, dropped the SAT intelligence test for admission.

AP reported, “FairTest, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit group that is generally opposed to standardized testing, announced last month that more than 1,400 accredited colleges and universities that grant bachelor’s degrees won’t require students applying for fall 2022 admission to submit test scores. That is more than 60 percent of the undergraduate institutions in the United States, the group said.”

So, instead of admitting and graduating the best and the brightest in science, math, technology, and engineering, to compete with China’s best, we’ll be promoting those who check the correct “woke” boxes on application forms.

Even Bill Gates, whose Microsoft Corp. is entirely based on math, now is attacking merit-based math learning. His foundation funds EquitableMath.org, which maintains, “White supremacy culture shows up in math classrooms when …. The focus is on getting the ‘right’ answer.” But getting the wrong answer means buildings fall down, as happened to a 12-story condo in Miami last June, killing 98 people.

And it means falling behind China in building future technology. World Nuclear News just reported China inked a deal with Argentina for a nuclear power plant northwest of Buenos Ares. The China National Nuclear Corporation announced the plant would help “green and low-carbon development, jointly address climate change, help achieve the global goal of carbon peaking and carbon neutrality and jointly build a nuclear energy community with a shared future for mankind.”

Even as China continues to build coal-power plants galore, as I have reported in The Epoch Times, they sure have learned how to spout all that green lingo. The Argentine plant actually is a Generation III plant, not the Gen IV one written about above, but those are also highly safe. And China is making connections for selling Gen IV when it comes online.

In California, finally we are seeing some pushback. Last week, 70 percent of voters in San Francisco bounced from office three “woke” School Board members. A major reason was the members had replaced Lowell High School’s merit-based admissions system with a “woke” lottery. The New York Times, usually the most “woke” paper around, headlined its story, “‘You Have to Give Us Respect’: How Asian Americans Fueled the San Francisco Recall.”

California has the facilities and the brainpower to lead the world in Gen IV and other technologies. It can do so only if the San Francisco parent revolt spreads across the whole state.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

John Seiler
John Seiler is a veteran California opinion writer. He has written editorials for The Orange County Register for almost 30 years. He is a U.S. Army veteran and former press secretary for California state Sen. John Moorlach. He blogs at JohnSeiler.Substack.com