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Nuclear Power Is Making Technical Strides, But Does It Have A Place In A Greener Future?

Published January 20, 2022 at 9:41 AM PST
MARK RALSTON/AFP via Getty Images
Aerial view of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant which sits on the edge of the Pacific Ocean at Avila Beach in San Luis Obispo County, California on March 17, 2011.

COVID-19 AMA: Test Result Timelines, Breakthrough Infections, Latest On Hospital Conditions, And More

COVID Update 1.20.22

In our continuing series looking at the latest medical research and news on COVID-19, Larry Mantle speaks with infectious diseases physician and professor of medicine at UCSF Dr. Monica Gandhi.

Topics today include:

  • C.D.C. says post-infection immunity was very effective against Delta, but vaccines still offer the best defense 
  • Omicron leaves testing labs overwhelmed, causing frustrating delays to get results 
  • Even as Omicron starts to ease in California, hospitals facing grim conditions 
  • California approaches pandemic record for all hospitalizations  
  • Why are men more likely to die of COVID-19? It’s complicated 
  • Can vaccinated people who get a breakthrough infection start living like it’s 2019? 
  • As L.A. schools backtrack on COVID vaccine, dozens more districts push to mandate it 

Nuclear Power Is Making Technical Strides, But Does It Have A Place In A Greener Future?

Nuclear Energy 1.20.22

Despite being the only remaining nuclear power plant in California, Diablo Canyon produced 9% of the state's electricity in 2020. But Diablo Canyon is set to be decommissioned by 2045 — which is also California’s target to achieve 100% zero-carbon electricity. The plant's operator, PG&E, cited a decreasing demand for nuclear energy specifically as the reason for the planned shutdown. Meanwhile, California's demand for electricity is only set to increase and replacing the plant's energy output with renewable sources will also come with a steep price tag. But while California’s appetite for nuclear energy may be waning, a majority of U.S. states are pursuing it as a way to cut their carbon emissions. At the same time, the technology behind nuclear energy is rapidly developing. That includes small, portable nuclear power plants which are being workshopped by multiple companies.

Today on AirTalk, Larry is joined by founder of the Good Energy Collective Jessica Lovering and Edwin Lyman, director of nuclear power safety for the Union of Concerned Scientists to discuss the state of nuclear power as well as its potential future in helping curb climate change.

What Investments Are California And Its Public Utilities Making In The Transition To Renewables?

Renewable Energies 1.20.22

California is striving to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2045 amid the climate crisis. Getting there will be a collective effort. Utilities like Southern California Edison and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power have been offering incentives to customers for solar panels and electric vehicles. LADWP – which has its own goal to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2035 – recently unveiled its largest wind farm yet. The New Mexico operation is expected to serve more than 222,000 homes. Today on AirTalk, Larry looks at what the state and utility companies are doing to go fully renewable with LA Times energy reporter Sammy Roth and Jason Rondou, LADWP’s Director of Resource Planning, Development & Programs.

Is Postgame Prayer On A Football Field Protected Speech? The Supreme Court Will Decide

SCOTUS & School Prayer 1.20.22

A former Washington state high school football coach made headlines in 2015 when the public school district he worked for fired him for refusing to stop leading prayers on the 50 yard line after games. Now, nearly six years later and after multiple appeals – including an initial denial by the Supreme Court – the case will finally have its day before the nine justices of the High Court. Joe Kennedy argues the school district violated his religious liberty in firing him. The district says it’s entitled to ask its employees to refrain from prayer in order to avoid violating the state law prohibiting establishment of religion. The question is: When the coach led post game prayer, did he do so as an employee of the district, or as a private citizen? If it’s the former, his prayer may not be protected; if it’s the latter, it could be.

Today on AirTalk, we’ll speak with Bloomberg News Supreme Court Reporter Greg Stohr and University of Miami Law Professor Caroline Mala Corbin about the legal forces at play in this case and what we might expect the justices to ask about when the case goes before the Supreme Court.

Felony Charges Filed Against Driver For Fatal Crash Involving Tesla Autopilot. Should The Company Be Held Criminally Responsible, Too?

Tesla Autopilot Manslaughter 1.20.22

Los Angeles County prosecutors have filed two counts of vehicular manslaughter against the driver of a Tesla on Autopilot who ran a red light in Gardena in 2019, slamming into another car and killing two people. The defendant appears to be the first person charged with a felony in the United States for a fatal crash involving a driver who was using a partially automated driving system. The driver has pleaded not guilty. Tesla’s Autopilot can control steering, speed, and braking. An estimated 765,000 Tesla vehicles in the United States alone are equipped with it. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which sent investigators to the crash, confirmed last week that Autopilot was in use in the Tesla at the time of the crash. NHTSA and the National Transportation Safety Board have been reviewing the widespread misuse of Autopilot by drivers, whose overconfidence and inattention have been blamed for multiple crashes, including fatal ones. In one crash report, the NTSB referred to its misuse as “automation complacency.” Who should be held liable for crashes like these? How do we make sure automated cars or assisted driving systems are safe before they hit the road? Today on AirTalk, Larry discusses these issues and more with Bryant Walker Smith, associate professor of law at the University of South Carolina who studies automated vehicles and Ryan Calo, professor of law at the University of Washington and co-founder of the UW Tech Policy Lab.

With files from the Associated Press

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