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Behind the Diablo Canyon Victory

Isabelle Boemeke

Monday, September 12, 2022

Chris Keefer  0:00  

Welcome back to Decouple today. delighted to be joined by Isabelle Boemeke key for her third appearance on the podcast. And what an occasion Diablo Canyon has been one. I've talked to Isabel several times in the past. One was, I think, I like to take credit for like your first podcast appearance. Totally. Alright, cool. Nice. I won't take too much credit. But yeah. And then you were back to talk about Diablo Canyon. I think that was like a year and a bit ago. I'm trying to remember what the vibe was back then. I mean, it was pretty unsettled. Like, this was still a fucking long shot. And here we are. I mean, I got to look at the actual date of that last podcast. But I mean, so much has changed in a very short time. So is he welcome back. I'm not going to waste time with a self insure. I just want to know how you're feeling.


Isabelle Boemeke  0:57  

Well, thank you. I am so happy to be back here for this reason, because I remember when we talked about Diablo Canyon in our last episode, we were kind of placing bets. I don't remember if we actually place the bet. But we were like No, Diablo Canyon and Pickering or sister plans. And we're both working on saving them. And let's see. So I'm super excited to be here for you know, for Diablo Canyon. And I'm feeling obviously just relieved and happy that we got to this point, it's not a done deal. I think we still have to be cautious and keep working on, you know, making sure that everything goes right. You know, the NRC still has to submit has to authorize the relicensing of the plant and pg&e can can make some mistakes. So I don't think we should be taking it for granted. But I'm so happy that, you know, we got to the point where we got it, like you said two years ago or however long. It felt impossible. I think that the odds of success back then were probably I would say 20%. And now it's high. Yeah. 20% is means okay. 20%. From my view, I think from other people's perspective, it was even lower than that. It was like zero 10. But yeah,


Chris Keefer  2:17  

I mean, I think you were treated by most people that you started to approach about Diablo Canyon is not delusional, but you know, naive perhaps. Like, tell us tell us your reaction. I mean, you you went around, speaking to you, I guess you were kind of new to advocacy to this bizarre role of being a nuclear advocate. I still like we need to come up with a better word.


Isabelle Boemeke  2:39  

But not that much better. But yeah.


Chris Keefer  2:42  

It's got a bit of influence. It's got a bit of class to it. Come on. So tell us about I guess that that early experience again, I mean, just what a what a turnaround. But what were attitudes at and when did you get involved? Was it was it a couple of years ago? Do you remember the day I actually found


Isabelle Boemeke  2:58  

a video, I did a video about Diablo Canyon about two years ago. And then I did a tic toc video, kind of like jumping on a trend that was with a Black Eyed Pea song saying me on my way to save Diablo Canyon, even after everybody told me not to waste my time. And this was October 2020. So it's about two years ago. And I just remember in my journey of getting to be a nuclear energy advocate slash influencer. I remember thinking that the most important thing was obviously ensuring that every single existing nuclear power plant in the United States kept operating, you know, the ones that were being closed prematurely and Diablo Canyon was obviously, you know, it's such a symbol of, of nuclear power, I think in the country. And I remember looking at it and thinking, why is this plant being shut down? And of course, the more you look into it, the less sense that it makes. And I remember asking, going around and asking big pronuclear organizations, what are we doing to save Diablo Canyon? And the responses were all the same. It was just, you know, impossible. It's a done deal. There's no way we're going to be able to save it. It's too much work. Just like lots of people have died on that hill. Don't do it basically, was the advice that I got. And I think what drove me wasn't just pure, you know, idealism and just like optimism. I think it was looking at the reality in California and seeing that we were in an energy crisis. 2020 is when we had you know, blackouts. We were also obviously in the climate crisis. We were talking about electric vehicle mandates. We were talking about, you know, banning gas stoves in people's homes and electrifying, electrifying homes. So I think looking at all this data I'm thinking, pretty sure, if there was ever a time to reconsider this decision this time is now and just deciding to go for it.


Chris Keefer  5:10  

I mean, two threads there that I want to pick up on. I mean, one is, again, just how incredibly incomprehensible it is to be pissing away, you know, these vital sort of like crown jewels of clean energy infrastructure. I mean, California, one of the crises is is obviously their, their electrical system, as you're mentioning the plan to move to EVs. And, you know, three days later, we have, you know, a request from the, from the grid operator, please don't charge your EVs. I mean, but the other one is, don't use your air conditioner. Right? The other one is this kind of incipient water crisis, which doesn't really show any signs of abating or turning around. I mean, it seems like it's a bit of a one way street, that California is going to be increasingly water stressed. And again, you have this this enormous piece of energy infrastructure. You know, if we put it to use in terms of desalination, we could, we could, you know, accomplish a lot. And anyway, it's just it's like, lying around there for us to use. And we talk so much in the nuclear community about, you know, the need to do new builds. And I mean, it's, it's so hard, but again, I mean, I'm obviously preaching to the converted here. So maybe that's just the comment. But I want to get back to that, again, I've talked about this in the past, but sort of the psychological profile of people in this movement, because it is, it is interesting, there's this dog determinism, like having a thick skin, I just wanted to know, if you had any, like, there's more to it than that. And I guess I'm interested in it, because obviously, I'm always hoping more people will kind of join the cause. And, you know, as an influencer, maybe influencers. You know, I think that's something that we can project, you know, the optimism, the pro humanism, like in the midst of a very daunting set of challenges. So, riff off that, if you will, and, you know, maybe paint the profile of the people that you look up to what you aspire to be in terms of your messaging, and your psychological profile, whatever.


Isabelle Boemeke  7:07  

Well, I think, a good way to kind of present the optimism and just show to people that things that seem impossible can be done is to just by telling the story. So after I reached out to all this big pronuclear organizations and heard the same responses, basically over and over, I obviously wasn't satisfied. And again, it wasn't just like pure optimism. It was optimism, plus, looking at the facts and seeing how the world was changing and evolving. I ended up stumbling upon Paris, Paris wines Ortiz, who you had on the podcast from stand up for nuclear on Twitter. I was just basically hitting up everybody that pronuclear movements to ask, what are we doing, you know, about Diablo Canyon or trying to build a movement around that. And me and Paris had a talk. Then eventually, me Perez and Mark Nelson had a talk. And we we started this, this Whatsapp group, they added Heather Hoff as well, who had been fighting for the plants since 2016. Heather, as some of the listeners might know, actually works at the plant. She used to be Anti-nuclear, when she started working at the plant, she changed her mind, it took her a years, I think something like six years to completely, you know, go from being anti to being super pro now and advocating grit. And, you know, Heather has been a huge inspiration, I think, to me, and to everybody else, have that. Have that just like resilience and optimism and never giving up. Even when everybody told her it was a lost cause. And and even when she got in trouble at work, you know, she, she got in trouble several times at work for advocating for Diablo Canyon. So meeting with them. This was like COVID. So you know, we were all at home. And I think that that helped as well, because we had extra time. And we would have weekly meetings, and just brainstorm okay, what can we do this week? What you know, what's, what's next here? Then, obviously, you have in 2021, at the end of 2021. We have a Stanford MIT study that comes out, basically highlighting all of the benefits of keeping the application open.


Chris Keefer  9:22  

How did that study? You make it sound like that study just appeared out of, you know, fresh air? Like how did how did that come about? I have a feeling there's a backstory


Isabelle Boemeke  9:30  

that didn't come about from our side that came about from a professor Jacobo Bongiorno from MIT. I think he he was the one who I think he's the one who was behind, you know, the getting that study started or he was a part of it. I'm not sure entirely. But that didn't come from us. That was an independent study. And it came out end of last year, but I think it's I think it is safe to say that that study would not have happened Had they not noticed that there was a shift in public perception in California. And I think that a part of that shift in public perception came from our efforts. It came from, you know, the tabling that we did and, and the little efforts we were doing, and, you know, the social media usage, all of those things. So this study comes out in again, and at the end of 2021. And it basically highlights what everybody knows, which is shutting down this plant makes no sense. You know, even extending it by 10 years, which is not that long, would help reduce carbon emissions would help reduce blackouts, and they would actually save the state 2.2 point $6 billion in power system costs, that's in 10 years, and then if you keep it open for for 20 years, then you know, all of those benefits compound. So that study coming out, I think, just legitimized the efforts that we were doing, you know, we knew that that was the case. But having that confirmed by two of the most, you know, respected and powerful educational institutions and institutions in the country was was crucial to their efforts. And that study got a lot of attention as well.


Chris Keefer  11:13  

You know, it's funny, you know, in terms of kind of the blueprints of the movement, like you mentioned, this Whatsapp group, and it sounds like a trivial detail. But like, I use WhatsApp, and I'm, you know, connected. And I'm not trying to do like, I know, like evil Facebook owns and everything else. I'm not trying to do some kind of an infomercial. But it has been like, absolutely transformative in terms of connecting this, I'm not sure if ComiCon is the right word. But like this, we're like a fringe group of individuals all over the world with a weird set of passions and beliefs. And we can feel a little more normal, because we're linked up, and we're in frequent contact, and you're sending messages and voice memos and stuff,


Isabelle Boemeke  11:51  

and the community, right, the community, the sense of community that it gives you, and just the last couple of weeks, you're a part of our WhatsApp, actually, you know, you know, you don't contribute too much, because you're not fighting this fight. But you I'm sure you look at the messages. And this last couple of weeks, it's been just incredible. We're all spread around the country, and some people internationally, like you and some other folks in Europe. And you know, we're going through this through this hearings, and we're texting each other. And we're just like creating this strong sense of community. And that has been also one of my, one of the biggest lessons in the last two years, it's how important it is for individuals who believe in something, to speak up, and to do the boring annoying things of calling your representatives of calling in when there is a virtual town hall to address a certain issue. And, and I think all of that really only comes about when you have a community. Otherwise, you're just you yourself, you know, at home trying to figure out how to call somebody you don't know how to write an email to your representative. So that has been one of the biggest lessons for me. But that might be just because I have no background in in, you know, advocacy or grassroots work.


Chris Keefer  13:09  

That's hard to believe honestly, given given all that you've done in the last couple of years. I love like all the show notes that we're giving, you know, to Paris to bungee cord Oh to others. I feel like I want to keep going with that. I mean, again, I've been on that Whatsapp group. That's where I got to meet Guido or where I got to know him and his passion again, through WhatsApp. I actually got to meet him at the breakthrough dialogues in June down in San Fran, which was amazing. Guido, I'm sure you're listening. Love you, brother. So talk about some of the other the other things that were done. And when I think about Guido, I think about the laser light projections. But but let's just Yeah, we talked about like the the big kind of article, which was obviously hugely helpful. But walk us through some of the other things that sort of spun out of this, this group of advocates working together.


Isabelle Boemeke  13:54  

So the obviously the again, going back to the MIT Stanford study, because I think it was a pivotal moment. Obviously, lots of different scientists work worked on that. And again, it gave our movement legitimacy, which was kind of lacking before honestly, in terms of the hard facts and data. And then with that, you know, it embolden all of us to kind of jump on to the things that we were most passionate and most capable of doing. So like you said, Guido, Kim and Ryan Pickering went around San Francisco with a projector and I think Guido applied for a grant to buy a projector so that we could go around and project things about Diablo Canyon project things about the rally, which we can also talk about, which happened in November last year. Oh, yeah. So you know, they were doing a lot of that. Then you have generation atomic Eric Meyer, Elisa Hayes, Madison, Jim Hoff everybody you know doing generation atomic is really good at you know, the calling the reps and sending emails and that kind of stuff and they've been excellent throughout. out. We all just kind of fell into our natural, you know, superpowers and work together. And and nobody, you know, like all just like lone wolves kind of thing but also collaborating at the same time. And then you also have, you know, the California's for green nuclear power, which have you interviewed them at all?


Chris Keefer  15:24  

I think I might have met their director at the breakthrough dialogues, but I'm not 100% Sure.


Isabelle Boemeke  15:29  

Right. So they're like this, you know, older guys who are like, think lawyers and engineers, and they've been fighting for the plant as well since 2016. And sewing the state. And so everybody was doing things, maybe disconnected, but all around the same time and together, which was also really inspiring, in a way and we, I feel like and Michael Shellenberger in your, in your previous episode, he mentioned the strife in the community and the, and the fights, the little fights, but what I've experienced with Diablo Canyon has been the opposite. I feel like you've really brought the pro nuclear community together. And we had, you know, all these organizations, again to California and green, Californians for green nuclear power, mothers for nuclear stand up for nuclear generation atomic breakthrough Institute, we all came together and we're working to save this plant. So it has been totally the opposite of my experience lately, at least with with Diablo Canyon.


Chris Keefer  16:30  

So is he prior to the rally tell us a little bit about how you got folks out. And I'm particularly interested in whether folks from the plant itself joined in, in the rally for clean energy.


Isabelle Boemeke  16:41  

One of the ways is obviously through social media and and WhatsApp, again, not to keep giving WhatsApp, too many shout outs. But that was one of the ways and the other way was just showing up for three days in a row around 6pm at the gates of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, because that's when the workers would leave and then your shift would start. So we would we would stand outside me, Heather Hoff, Ryan Pickering. And Taylor, who works with me with signs that said, you know, rally on September to save the plant, let's save the plant. And it was, let me say it was pretty cold and pretty brutal, because we were there just standing with signs for about two hours. And we had fliers. And you know, we were, every time a car would come out, we would try to stop them. And they would open the window and be like, okay, you know, what do you guys want meddling kids kind of thing. And we would talk to them and give them the flyer and tell them about the rally. And they think, you know, I would say 80% of them were just like, Yeah, sure. I could, I could see the look in their face of just thinking that we were this, like idealistic, dumb kids that were just wasting our time, because this was, again, a done deal. But there was a small percentage of them who were cheering us on, and, you know, thanking us, and some of them showed up. It wasn't a huge amount of people. But that was, you know, that was one of the most, I think he's firing parts of the whole effort. And again, goes, goes back to that theme of showing up of doing the boring, annoying things. And in getting the people to come from, you know, the online sphere to the real world.


Chris Keefer  18:33  

Right? No, I think that's so important in reaching out to the people that work in these plants, and showing some appreciation and love, right, yeah, that to the human side of nuclear is so vital and important. And And it's funny, you know, we're joking about these different platforms with which we reach people. You know, I've made a real pivot to LinkedIn, because that's where a lot of folks who work within the sector are I have a lot of connections now with authorised nuclear operators. But but many others and it's it's, I think they're very heartened by seeing the kind of spice that that we bring to this debate. So I love that story. I love that story. So is he it's also a little more about the rally like what what was you know what actually, I remember something from the rally you guys had this this huge blimp. I remember a bunch of women carrying this blimp around fill us into the backstory. So the blimp


Isabelle Boemeke  19:25  

was I don't know why, I think I think I originally wanted to make a big a big ball basically, that would illustrate a tonne of co2. Right so that people could visualize what a tonne of co2 looked like. And then the fact that, you know 7.2 million of those would be entering the atmosphere every single year if the plant was shut down. Because I think, you know, we it's just so abstract to think of, of co2. And I reached out to a bunch of companies and they came back with the quotes and They were like $1,000 or some of them were like $10,000 for a ball I was like okay I'm not I'm not going to spend as much money so then I ended up deciding on this blimp which is existing on Etsy or something like that and you know I could print on it and they would ship it to my house and the whole thing for a lot cheaper and so I decided to end up using the blimp and printed with you know, this this blimp represents a tonne of co2 7.2 million of these would be released into the atmosphere and so on. And you know, this was a public event and in a in a public space so getting the blimp out there was a whole thing on its own because it needed to be filled with half helium. But you know, this was in San Luis Obispo. I don't live in San Luis Obispo. This building we were we did the rally was downtown so there wasn't really a place for us to fill the balloon with helium. So it was a whole thing just just like getting the blimp filled. And then, and then I realized that I couldn't just carry it by myself. Because it's pretty heavy.


It was like a 30 feet long. blimp 33 feet long. Yes, Jesus and small whale.


And so I was in this was like happening all by the way unfolding in real time, right as we're setting up the tables and putting the things out there and so on. I'm like, Okay, what I do with the blimp. And so I realized it was like an opportunity to have an entrance with all women voices again, carrying the blimp and chanting together and walking through the streets. And this was like the Main Street in San Luis Obispo in that area, at least. So we you know, we walked we finally finally figured out a way to fill the blimp and we started walking. I think it was like three or four blocks. And it was a very powerful moment. Again, all these women chanting, I was leading with what's the name of sizing? megaphone, I was leading with a megaphone. And we kept saying things like save the planet, save the planet. We're on a mission to stop all emissions, and some other chance. And that's how we made the entrance into the rally. People were were all waiting there. You know, there was TV and so on. And then we started the speeches. So it was a very dramatic entrance. And the blimp I think had a very powerful visual presence.


Chris Keefer  22:32  

Yeah, I mean, it reminds me of of the polar bear suits. I mean, it just it's such a kind of friendly way to interact with people if kids coming up and taking photos and stuff. No, that's that's a great story. And I mean, we've liked it, I'm sure more names are going to come up. But I do want to really acknowledge your role. I mean, you produce some really, really powerful content. You know, you're an influencer, you brought onboard other influencers? I'm not sure. You know, it's hard to weigh the importance of every little action. Tony, you know, you're you organize the I think the biggest pronuclear advocacy rally in the US. Yeah. And I you know, I know that I don't want to sort of like do celebrity gossip or whatever. But you know, like Grimes has come out, you know, it's quite pronuclear and really celebrating you and supporting you. Elon has been saying stuff. So again, I don't want to like tread on waters of your personal relationships and things like that. But I do think that's an important factor. And I don't I don't know how much you can talk Grimes Can you say much about Grimes or like other other people that like other influencers that I think them coming over to nuclear has a lot to do with with your content creation and your personality?


Isabelle Boemeke  23:44  

Yeah, for sure. So Grimes is a great friend of mine. She's one of my closest friends. And of course, we've talked about nuclear power. She knows what uh, you know, she knows that I do. And she's


Chris Keefer  23:53  

What do you like at parties as you're talking about parties?


Isabelle Boemeke  23:57  

Actually, as I'm that annoying person who's just like, well, we shouldn't be shutting down the Leukemia and okay, we know that I kind of have become an I feel like you might have as well I've become that person who always talks about nuclear power. Well, it's just that you feel the need to spread the word. I'm trying to be better. I'm trying to talk about other things but but of course, she knows you know what I do and I think Grimes is a good example of an artist a big celebrity who can do that kind of thing of coming out perinuclear And coming out in support of something like Diablo Canyon because she's so unique and she's so herself and she doesn't care about being controversial. You know, she cares about the things that she believes in. So her wanting to do that video back in the at the end of 2021. And for those who haven't seen it, maybe you can link or something. But she did a video basically saying that California should keep the application open, which was a part of this, you know, this rally slash effort to show the public sentiment was shifting. And same with Elon has been my friend for a long time as well. And he obviously knows, you know, knows that nuclear is good, and that we at least should not be shutting down existing plants.


Chris Keefer  25:22  

But it does. I mean, it does seem like that's been a little bit of a change of harder messaging. Certainly, you know, he's been much more vocal recently, I'm not sure what his opinions are dating way back.


Isabelle Boemeke  25:32  

And that's a decision of his, you know, I don't know how much of it was me just being annoying. But, of course, I think that has a huge, you know, that has a huge impact. And it's something that really starts changing public perception. Because I'm an employee, you know, my platform is really small. It's very, still very niche. But I think having having known these people, and having them come out publicly has been super important to the movement as a whole. And I feel like culturally, at least in the Twittersphere, which I don't know how representative it is of the real world, it seems to be that most people are pro nuclear. At this point, at least, do you have the same feeling?


Chris Keefer  26:19  

You know, it's so hard, right? Because the way social media works, you end up in an echo chamber, right, in terms of what the algorithm feeds you, but it certainly feels like the anti nuclear voices are becoming much more marginal, much more Boomer or I mean, even older. You know, I've occasionally attended, like a fly on the wall, some Anti-nuclear meetings, and I'm just shocked at how few young people there are there. You know, the ideas are really old and tired. And I don't think they're super appealing these days. Right? Yeah. Well, I wanted to build off a little bit about about theories of change regarding influencers. And also like, you know, giving respect to the the trailblazers, the path blazers, right, who made you know, coming out as pronuclear a less risky thing to do, like on a societal level on a social level. And you know, folks like Mark Lynas, he's been a huge influence of mine. In starting the podcast, even, you know, someone who was a dedicated anti GMO campaigner. That was his main issue, he was anti nuclear as well, but you know, who changed his mind paid a terrible cost, it sounds like, and, you know, I'm not personal friends with him. But the sense I get is that, you know, he, I think his best man was, or maybe he was the best man and one of his best friends like, and many of his relationships, I think, are blown up, because he was such a such a prominent activist and in the sort of, you know, anti GMO movement, you know, other people have ever, like, paid a price, and I feel grateful for what they've done in that there's not as big of a price to pay anymore, it's more socially accepted. And in terms of this kind of influencer theory of change, I mean, you know, I'm a medical doctor, I practice evidence based medicine, you know, it involves looking at really critical appraisal of the medical literature. You know, what's, what's the math, you know, study says, x is just, it's the bane of our existence, right? Because it's all about how that study was designed, how, you know, how the biases were controlled for. And so, you know, and it's a lot of work. And I think we kind of expect that the, you know, in some naive way, that this is how the general public makes decisions. And, of course, so much of, of what we bring to the table or opinions on things that we're not that informed about just comes out of our social clique, our tribe. And so, you know, having an influencer, getting to know them, getting to know their values, personality, that there are good people, and then saying, wow, they think nuclear energy is good like that, that really opens that opens people up, I think, to investigating things more. And so I think, you know, while I don't I think I prefer you know, that like rigorous study kind of thing. Like, it's undeniable that that influencers play a major, major part. And that it's been incredible for Grimes, and Elon yourself and others to be jumping on the wagon. And I think it's making a big difference.


Isabelle Boemeke  29:07  

I wanted to go a little bit backwards if we have enough time, but I just wanted to talk about a couple of things that we talked about in our podcasts about Diablo Canyon. So you know a couple of the reasons why I decided to work exclusively on Diablo Canyon and people were like, work on Palisades, please work on this other plant and I wanted to focus on Diablo Canyon for several reasons. One was, it is just such a symbol of the anti nuclear movement. You know, the biggest anti nuclear rallies happened because of Diablo Canyon. So I knew that changing that would mark such a shift on public perception. And the other reason was obviously, it's just like, beautiful, which is which is like a kind of a shallow reason. It's kind of like a poster is like a poster nuclear power plant. And, but I think it was mostly because of this like, if we can So if Diablo Canyon, if we can change public perception around nuclear power in California, we can do it anywhere, maybe not in Germany, but we can, we can do it in most places. And a part of that was making this rally was was, you know, showing to people that enough people cared about saving this plant that they showed up to San Luis Obispo, which is, you know, kind of a small town in like Central California to, to voice their support. And so when, when the Stanford MIT study came out, I thought the time was perfect to organize a rally, because now we have to date on our side. And you know, we can talk about it in the rally. And we started organizing, as you said, the safe clean energy rally in San Luis Obispo. And it was a lot of work. Just trying to, you know, galvanize people and get everybody to agree to show up. First of all, we're just showing up in San Luis Obispo. But then also people flew in from other places in the country, which is probably not very environmentally friendly. But that's how excited they were about being there. You know, they, they they came from New York, which is like five hours away, to be there and show support. And in that rally, we had only female speakers. It was myself was Alyssa Hayes from generation atomic, who is a Filipino advocate. She's a fusion researcher. I believe she's getting here at her PhD or something. Then we had Carolyn Porco, who is a former NASA scientist who is the person who actually got me interested in nuclear power to begin with. And she was, you know, she spoke at the rally, we had Don Ortiz leg who is the district supervisor, Supervisor of the area where Diablo Canyon is located. It was just very inspiring and positive, and it had good vibes all around. And as you said, it was the biggest pronuclear rally in in the United States, I believe it was, I think the peak was about 200 people.


Chris Keefer  32:09  

I know we're gonna talk a bit later about an event that's going to be even bigger. I'm gonna make you talk about it, but but we'll get to that we'll plant that seed now. Oh, yeah. Okay. Yeah. You know, it's funny when you talk about people traveling for a long distance and how it's, you know, not necessarily the best thing for the climate. I think there's this kind of joke, right. And there's a big critique of this idea of like, personal carbon footprints. But, you know, those of us involved in saving a nuclear plant. You know, again, I think this whole offset thing is kind of bullshit. But it is kind of interesting, right? I mean, I, Eric, Eric Meyer, and I collaborated on a meme around like, you know, going vegan, saving a ton of co2 a year and not driving to tons and saving a nuclear plant, you know, millions of times, but, yeah. Anyway, that's an aside. So the rally was, was a big success. Again, like what I'm struck by, and I talked about this a little bit with Michael was just how unanimous this vote was, you know, and that physics is king. And I guess, you know, Gavin had has presidential ambitions and didn't want to leave behind a grid that was essentially a dumpster fire. And so, you know, maybe his hand was forced. But were you surprised by you know, I think there was four votes against between the House and the Senate. There were some abstentions. But I mean, this was a landslide in California, of all places,


Isabelle Boemeke  33:38  

a landslide. I was surprised by several things. A, I was surprised that Gavin Newsom changed his mind in the first place. When we did the rally, as you said, it was pretty successful. We got some calls, you know, we got a lot of coverage. And people kept asking me, who are you trying to talk to? Who are you asking to keep the plant open? And I kept saying, Gavin Newsom. And, you know, all the like, very intellectual people on Twitter were like, it's not his decision. This is a pg&e decision. When pg&e kept saying very clearly, we are following the state's orders. The state has made it very clear that they don't want any more nuclear power. They don't want Diablo Canyon open, we're following state state or they didn't say those exact words. But that was the implication. And this decision to shut Diablo Canyon was was made by Gavin back in 2016. So for him to make that shift publicly. I have to give him a lot of credit. It's not easy. It's not easy in California. And it's not easy for the person who was behind this decision to begin with. So I think it shows that he's, you know, at least he listened to some of the evidence he, whenever he publicly announced that he was reconsidering the closure. He mentioned two things. You mentioned, the, again, the Stanford MIT study. And he mentioned something else that we can talk about which was a letter signed by 79 of the, you know, top scientists, entrepreneurs and energy experts in the country, urging him to keep the application open. So I think it shows that he's able to change his mind. And for that, I commend him a lot. So that was the biggest surprise. And it was very gratifying, obviously, to know that we were right on targeting him. And then the other biggest surprise is you said was just what a landslide. It was, it was, I believe it was 100 votes, yes, versus four noes. And by the way, a couple of days knows where Republicans who were in principle for the plant continue operating, but they were just going against Gavin Newsom. So it was a very confusing position. Again, talking about community building, we were watching it in a zoom call with a lot, lots of people who were involved in, in the movement. And we were just confused by some of the votes. But yes, it was a landslide. And it's just very gratifying all around. And I think, to your point, you know, some of it is politicians, perhaps can change their mind and show true leadership. But it's the very real fear of blackouts. That that I think it unfortunately has come down to that. Climate change is still a bit of like a caviar issue. You know, you you worry about it when everything else is okay. But energy is we need energy for everything. And people don't like it when you know, they are restricted from using it or, or when they have blackouts.


Chris Keefer  36:39  

How have I mean, if you've been following it all how the Anti-nuclear people were like, because I was they have a lot more years in the game of advocacy and activism. And so I pay attention to what they do. I look at the tools that they're using that petitions they might use the open letters they might write. And so I'm curious, you know, what, what their activism looked like in the build up to this vote. I think in the past, we've talked about how if Diablo went, you know, your take at that time was that California might be headed towards a full on nuclear ban if they had no plant there. But let's let's just talk about the other side a little bit, and what their actions were like, what was the battle like prior to the vote?


Isabelle Boemeke  37:21  

I was expecting? I don't know what I was expecting. Honestly, I was expecting that they would be very upset. Obviously, you know, there are there are organizations in California that were created with the sole purpose of shutting down Diablo Canyon. And so of course, this has been their life's mission. I think their bread and butter is this the stuff I mentioned before, which is the boring call into the town hall. Right there was this there was this town hall hearing for I believe it was assembly members or something where basically the governor's office made their case for why they thought Diablo Canyon had to remain open. And they opened it for comments at the end. And thank God for that Whatsapp group. Because we were able to mobilize a lot of people who called in to give their testimony. But the first half hour of public comments was basically just like old school, Anti-nuclear, the whole, you know, the whole thing that we know, the waist and this, this one woman even started started her testimony talking about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which shows you where the fear is coming from. Right. It's still the bombs. So that was their most I think that was their most powerful tool was having the folks that call in to send emails. But other than that, I don't think they were that powerful, to be honest. And a part of the reason is because they're, they're older. And I don't think they have leveraged the more modern tools like, you know that the younger people in the pro nuclear movement have been able to so it was more of the like old school, grassroots stuff. But it's it's it's been great to learn because again, that matters. Had we not jumped on that call and had people put out positive testimonies towards Diablo Canyon. Who knows, maybe the future could have changed? Maybe not because it was about you know, it was about blackouts at the end of the day, but who knows?


Chris Keefer  39:23  

Yeah, I mean, the Byron Dresden plants that came down to a single vote, you know, an absolutely extraordinary accomplishment by advocates there. I mean, we know for sure that it was the advocacy, it was such a close call. And I absolutely think that the advocates have had a huge role in the Diablo Canyon battle in terms of, you know, the justification that Gavin Newsom could bring forward.


Isabelle Boemeke  39:47  

At least giving coverage right, at least in in people being able to say, people want this to remain open. So whatever the impact was, I don't think it was 00 Absolutely


Chris Keefer  39:59  

not. I Absolutely not. What about think the the larger, more powerful organizations? I mean, I always talk about the anti nuclear pro nuclear kind of battle as a real David and Goliath struggle. I mean, you know, you know, as the largest pro nuclear rally in North America, or probably North America, I mean, we're trying our best here up in Canada, but we'll beat you guys now that we know you have to get over 200


Isabelle Boemeke  40:23  

By now not to compete with me.


Chris Keefer  40:26  

I'm a nuclear advocate. I never give up. All right, I never give up. Okay. Was my train of thought here? But yeah, I mean, in terms of what we're up against these these larger organizations, you know, the NRDC, which so happily was dancing on the grave of Indian Point. I mean, they were active in trying to get Diablo shut down. Yeah, no,


Isabelle Boemeke  40:51  

yes. Even though I mean, the, you know, RAF Cavanna, who works at the NRDC spoke a while in one of these hearings. And And his argument was, I don't even understand what their argument is, honestly, it doesn't make sense. It's a bunch of, let's just invest more in renewables and energy efficiency. And it's like, that's not the point. Nobody's saying stop investing in those things. We're saying, keep the application open. And, you know, build solar panels. But every single solar panel that you're installing should go towards replacing fossil fuels. Every single wind turbine, every single battery, whatever farm should go to replace fossil fuels. So I don't I can't even comprehend what the what the argument was there. Of course, the NRDC wasn't happy. But I also hear from a lot of people that things are changing even within the NRDC. And this, you know, this older voices who have been historically Anti-nuclear, people are basically just waiting for them to retire, to start voicing some more pro arguments. So again, I think that the shifting public consciousness, which is something that's so intangible and so hard to measure, I think it's what catalyzes all of it. So I don't know what they're doing behind closed doors, I don't know if they have some, you know, master plan that we're not aware of. But in terms of their public efforts, they've not been very impressive. And we've even had people like Charles Coleman off who is known for, you know, for being for decades and Anti-nuclear, I wouldn't say he was an Anti-nuclear advocate, but he, you know, wrote books about why the nuclear industry would be become too expensive and would ultimately fail. And he's, I don't know how old he is, but he's off that generation. And he wrote, he wrote a piece about why we should give the applicant an open and why actually, we should keep Indian Point open and all this other nuclear power plants, recognizing that when they shut down, they're replaced by fossil fuels. So even within that, you know, that whole anti nuclear movement and that age range, there's already a shift. So it's super encouraging.


Chris Keefer  43:13  

For sure, I'm just thinking, you know, what a poor return on investment, the donors to the NRDC are getting for Anti-nuclear activism, because, I mean, this is an organization's managing, you know, annual budgets of hundreds of millions of dollars. And when I think I when I think, again, about, you know, what us, quote unquote, nuclear shields are able to bring to the table. You know, it's such a tiny fraction of that, and yet, you know, it's the kind of passion I think, and commitment that that we all have, that's, that's driving it forward. Yeah. Is he, you said that the the battle is not completely over, I wanted to talk maybe just a little bit about other other things that, you know, might need to be cleared, you know, one of the justifications, like, there's always these interesting ways in which Anti-nuclear folks are able to make it hard for nuclear power to continue. And I think one of them had to do with, you know, thermal pollution of the Pacific Ocean, marine marine life concerns, things that are really weaponized against nuclear and suspiciously kind of silent about all the natural gas plants along the coast that were getting their license extended, or, you know, even the wildlife impacts of renewables. Can you can you talk to you said, this isn't totally a done deal. What more do we have to be doing and paying attention to in the months and I guess, the years that come? I'm not


Isabelle Boemeke  44:31  

sure that it comes down to advocacy as much as you know, pg&e ensuring that they have everything ready to get their relicense and the NRC, giving them, giving them the license and all of those things, but as I said, my biggest learning with with this whole experience is how we need to show up, how we'd have to be better at getting people together and making the boring calls. and writing the emails and just showing up. You know, even the people who showed up to the rally again, it wouldn't be it would not have been the biggest pronuclear rally if people had not made the effort to be there. And I think we've, we, we have to move the pronuclear movement from online Twitter meme sphere, which is very powerful, I think in like changing people's minds to now real world, you know, action. So, just in general, with Diablo Canyon, but as with any other plant, you know, say in Germany or wherever, and then also just in building new new nuclear plants, which also should be our goal instead of just fighting for the ones that that are existing. So that has been, I think that's something that we all should keep an eye on and, and keep keep fighting for. And another thing, I think, and I know some people in the movement, disagree with me, but I think building bridges, building bridges with maybe with NRDC is of the world. I think some some organizations are kind of impossible to reach at this point. But there are some big environmental organizations that I think giving enough time and some of this, you know, super Anti-nuclear folks retiring and so on, can be can be turned around, and I think we shouldn't be building alliances because we're stronger for that. And yet, we have our differences in the all of the above strategy, but I still maintain that it is all of the above. And that we should be fighting together, you know, with with our renewable friends, and, and so on.


Chris Keefer  46:43  

So, you've talked, I guess, kind of in vague terms about what we should all be doing. What's next for Izzy and what's next for Isodope? Because I never know who I'm talking to. I feel like today I'm talking to Izzy.


Isabelle Boemeke  46:54  

Yeah, well, like a very unique look and voice so you would No,


Chris Keefer  47:00  

no, no. So what's next for what's next for you? I mean, Diablo Canyon has been such a huge focus of your life. For the last little while.


Isabelle Boemeke  47:08  

Yeah, no, I don't have anything else to do now. I can just retire and


dice? Well,


I think the application still because this this. In the current plan, it only remains open for five years. I believe it should remain open for another 20 years. Because beyond the electricity production value, also have what you mentioned, which was the water desalination value. So I think that as long as we have fossil fuels on the grid in California, Diablo Canyon should remain open. And then beyond that, let's say we fully decarbonized the grid, we can still use the applicant Canaan's electricity to make fresh water. So the applicant is still a part of the fight. I think it's just a different different battle at this point.


Chris Keefer  48:00  

And then time to breeze.


Isabelle Boemeke  48:01  

Yes, exactly. Yeah. And then ensuring that we can build advanced nuclear in the United States. That's where the DoD is, you know, is investing a lot of their time and money. And I think that, objectively speaking in the United States, AP 1000s, won't be built anymore, just judging by the Volvo experience. So how can we ensure that we're building the next generation of nuclear power plants, and you know, it doesn't have to be like super exotic, new designs, it can be existing designs that are adapted to be smaller and built in easier ways, like modular and so on. So I think that's the goal, the next steps,


Chris Keefer  48:47  

okay, I don't feel like I'm, like, you know, revealing too much about your personal life, because you've talked about the fact that you're, you're creating a human being right now. I don't know. I just wanted to if you're okay, with riffing on that a tiny bit. You know, just before this interview, I was just playing with my son, and it's something that keeps me you know, very pro human, human focused. It's such a beautiful experience. And when, when sometimes you become kind of greedy and cynical and lose faith in in people. It's a powerful moment. So I don't know if you have any reflections on that. But if not, I mean, just, you know, I'm excited for you.


Isabelle Boemeke  49:25  

I actually do believe that having children is a vote of faith in the future is it's kind of saying yes, things might look messed up right now but I have faith that they will be better and not in you know, and not in spite of us but because of us. Because we have we have the chance to actually make a difference. And you know if anything is the applicant story. What I liked the most about it is that it is an inspirational story of people can make a difference people can achieve what other people or deemed impossible. So I think that having children is kind of, you know, the most real and tangible way of saying that without words, it's knowing that we can have an impact and that we can make the future better.


Chris Keefer  50:15  

Man, that is such a beautiful place to leave it. But again, I had that little teaser. So we were chatting before and again, I like to sort of have breaking news on Decouple and maybe this isn't the right time or place to do it. But, you know, we're talking about this big, biggest nuclear rally in the US or I'll give it to you in North America. But you were talking you were talking a little bit about a really cool idea about a potential gathering that could come together, which is a riff off of an anti nuclear gathering. Can you can you say anything about it?


Isabelle Boemeke  50:49  

I don't want to give too much away. Okay, because I want I want it to be a surprise, but let's just say that we all agree that the no nukes concerts back in the 70s had a huge impact on the cultural you know, the public sentiment around nuclear power. So what would a yes nukes concert look like? And what would the impact of that be?


We shall see.


Chris Keefer  51:17  

Let's leave it there is amazing having you on great catching up. I think it's great timing. This Diablo Canyon victory, like I said, gives you some breathing room. You're gonna need it in about a month. And in the in thereafter there. But yeah, just wonderful touching bases with you. Thanks for doing what you've done. For Diablo. It's certainly really inspiring, I think for activists around the world. Very real struggles going on right now in Europe, particularly Germany. Also our humble struggle up here in Ontario for Pickering. You know, the sister plants of Diablo Canyon as we've been trying to label it. So yeah, thanks. Thanks for everything that you've done, Izzy and looking forward to to see what comes next.


Isabelle Boemeke  52:03  

Thank you. And I hope this has created a blueprint for people and just inspire them to keep fighting. Thank you for joining me again.


Chris Keefer  52:10  

All right. Bye for now.



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