As an environmentalist, Heather Matteson was pretty sure she was against nuclear power. It’s how she was raised to think. But when she starts working in the bowels of a nuclear reactor, she begins questioning what she knows and where her allegiances lie.
Heather is heading deep into a decades-old conflict but one where old battle lines are changing. The reason is climate change. Environmentalists are being forced to reconsider it, after decades of protesting against it. And the flashpoint for this is the last nuclear power plant running in California, which could soon be shut down. It’s also where Heather works.

Her Nuclear Option 9 May,2017Lauren Sommer

  • fiddie

    Excellent story and interview. I appreciate the journalistic integrity of letting the story tell itself rather than trying to push a particular editorial viewpoint into the tale.

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  • DrGeneNelson

    Bravo to Heather! Please also see the efforts of Californians for Green Nuclear Power, Inc, at a nonprofit dedicated for the continued safe operation of Diablo Canyon Power Plant beyond 2025. CGNP is a California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) intervenor in the case involving PG&E’s application to abandon DCPP in 2025. CGNP recently made history as the first citizen group backing nuclear power that has become eligible for CPUC intervenor compensation.

  • kgothier

    Yes, being an “Environmentalist” was “being against nuclear power,” until most of us embraced the scientific method, standard EPA Risk Assessment, and Scientific Consensus:

    Our “ultimate energy source” is nuclear power from the sun, and the huge exponent in Einstein’s elegant equation provides all the guidance humans need to deliver clean air and water, sustainable communities and prosperity, for billions, forever…

    Fortunately, the EPA Clean Power Plan clearly supports an “all of the above” energy strategy.

    Unfortunately, the Renewables/Fossil Fuels Industries continue to oppose this strategy, while billions live in poverty and tens of millions die each year from energy poverty and air pollution:,

    It is past time for all states and nations to identify a clear path towards global energy production and prosperity, without burning and inhaling priceless, irreplaceable fossil fuels:

    We either start making decisions based on scientific consensus, or continue to rely on some other metric, which will insure smarter species evolve to replace humans.

  • terry floyd

    There was/is a better nuclear reactor (Wigner/Weinberg Thorium
    molten breeder reactor [ORNL~1965~1970]) that uses nuclear
    weapons and LWR reactor spent fuel as fuel to provide all 9B
    people an Amer/Euro standard of living by 2050. Diablo Nuclear
    should be dedicated the desalination to mitigate California’s
    water problems if there is more than enough electrical power
    since providing CO2free energy is not valued.


Lauren Sommer

Lauren is a radio reporter covering environment, water, and energy for KQED Science. As part of her day job, she has scaled Sierra Nevada peaks, run from charging elephant seals, and desperately tried to get her sea legs – all in pursuit of good radio. Her work has appeared on Marketplace, Living on Earth, Science Friday and NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered. You can find her on Twitter at @lesommer.

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