Convergence Newsletter July 2022


Romero Review

A letter from the leaders of the Romero Institute

"What would Karen Silkwood say / If she was still alive? / That when it comes to people's safety / Money wins out every time."

Gil Scott-Heron

Is Nuclear a Real Climate Solution?

Dear friend,

I’m writing to you today to call your attention to a disturbing trend I’ve noticed gaining strength in recent months: more and more leaders across the country and the world are turning away from real climate solutions like distributed solar and energy storage, wind, and geothermal in favor of new investments in nuclear power. The EU recently announced it was considering counting nuclear power as renewable, and just this May, California Governor Gavin Newsom and U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm both signaled they were open to using federal funds to keep San Luis Obispo’s Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant open past its slated 2025 decommissioning.

To many this may seem like a step in the right direction since nuclear power is carbon-free, but it has a hidden history that you may not be aware of yet. What I have learned along with my husband and Romero President Daniel Sheehan has convinced us that nuclear is a false climate solution and a danger to our world.

If you’ve followed Danny’s and my work for any length of time you probably know that we share a strong anti-nuclear stance — not surprising if you know how we first met. Our first case together was uncovering who killed Karen Silkwood, a young nuclear union representative and mother who was run off the road in November 1974 on her way to blow the whistle on her employer, the Kerr-McGee Corporation, for serious legal violations. The “official” story was that she had taken drugs and accidentally driven off the road while trying to go public about some worker safety violations, but what we uncovered over the course of our investigation was in fact a deep criminal conspiracy between her company and certain factions within the U.S. government to secretly supply foreign governments with fuel for nuclear weapons in order to maintain Western hegemony over the world.


Karen Silkwood's car, with damage to both front and rear ends. Credit: News 9

While we were only able to reveal a small portion of the real reason Karen Silkwood was murdered, we were successful in getting her family a favorable ruling; one that also had far-reaching consequences for American energy policy. Despite not imposing any direct restrictions on the nuclear industry, its result nonetheless was that almost no new private nuclear power plants were built for decades. Why? Because it simply made the nuclear companies financially responsible if their plants caused harm. That’s right: the private nuclear business model was originally built on the assumption that they would be free from consequences no matter how much death and devastation they caused. Not only is that a license to kill, but to charge the victims’ families for the bullets.

How could such a dangerous (and often reckless) industry have negotiated such a sweetheart deal with the government for so long? To understand why, you need to understand the real value of nuclear power plants to the United States and many other nations: as a way to maintain the global threat of Mutually Assured Destruction, MAD. See, in order to produce nuclear weapons you need a source of the right isotopes of radioactive materials, which can be produced as by-products of conventional nuclear power plants.

Tragically, the United States had an opportunity in the Nixon era to invest in a much safer source of nuclear power, thorium, but instead chose to double down on the types of reactors that could supply us and our allies with enormous numbers of nuclear bombs. Even worse, the astronomical price tag of a new nuclear plant creates incentives for profit-driven companies to cut corners wherever possible, leaving a radioactive legacy across the country that is all-too-often paid for by us taxpayers. In short, instead of choosing safe, economical nuclear power, our leaders chose to spend trillions of dollars on one of the most expensive forms of energy because the waste products could be used to make the most deadly weapons the world has ever known. That is why I believe that as long as our leaders continue to base international politics on the promise of violence rather than the promise of collaboration, nuclear power will be a threat to humanity.


Hiroshima, after the bomb. What we traded for safe, clean nuclear power: the ability to cause mass destruction and pollute the planet for millennia. Credit: National WWII Museum

Pacific Gas & Electric’s (PG&E) Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant is no exception. Situated on the coast of San Luis Obispo County (and on top of several tectonic fault lines, some of which were only discovered after it was built), the Diablo Canyon plant stores its radioactive waste in aboveground containers with no long-term disposal plan and continually releases heated wastewater and a radioactive form of hydrogen into the nearby Pacific Ocean. PG&E made the decision several years ago to shutter the plant by 2025 because it would be much cheaper for the company to meet the state’s clean energy requirements to simply build more solar panels, wind turbines, and energy storage facilities than to keep running this high-cost facility. It has already established plans for several times more renewable power generation than would be lost by closing Diablo Canyon, so why does California need to keep this deadly time bomb ticking?

At the end of the day, Diablo Canyon, like all nuclear power, is dangerous; to our families, our livelihoods, and to some of the most unique and fertile lands and waters in the world. It is an aging facility with no long-term waste storage plan built on multiple fault lines in a populated, earthquake-prone region. It single-handedly drives up electricity prices for millions of Californians and is an obstacle to further clean energy development. If we have billions of dollars to renovate and maintain this danger to our state, those taxpayer dollars would inarguably be better spent on sustainable energy solutions that, unlike nuclear, have absolutely no chance of killing or harming tens of millions of people and poisoning the planet.

If you agree with us, please use the link below this letter to send messages to Governor Newsom and the Biden Administration urging them to leave the unfulfilled promises of nuclear in the past and redouble their commitments to real climate solutions.

Thank you for your engagement on this hugely important issue!

Sara Nelson,

Co-Founder & Executive Director

Romero Institute

Romero Report

Current events, new perspectives on history, and more

In this episode of the Romero Report, join Danny Sheehan as he charts out the path forward after last month's devastating Supreme Court rulings. Watch above to hear about:

  • How to respond to the SC rulings
  • The role of Congress
  • The importance of the Jan. 6th investigation
  • Exercising your rights as a citizen

Romero Reads

Highlighting important writings from around the world

For this month's Romero Reads, I'd like to share with you two papers that cogently lay out more details of the arguments for and against nuclear power. The first is from researchers at universities in Norway, Switzerland, Norway, and Italy, and is both an informative technical background on nuclear as well as a metastudy (a "study of studies") looking at past research into its applicability across the world. The second is written by Dr. Arjun Makhijani, the president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, and digs more into the history of nuclear power and some of its lesser-known drawbacks. These papers are a good starting point for your own investigation into this tricky form of energy production. -- S.N.

Project Updates

The news from the front


This month at Let’s Green CA! we’re calling on Governor Newsom to step up and be the climate champion California and the nation need in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling limiting the EPA’s ability to regulate carbon emissions. While the Court has dealt a blow to climate action, California has many ways to overcome this and other roadblocks - we just need the political will to make things happen.

Click here to add your voice to the call for California climate leadership!


Recently, the owner of two hotels and a sports bar in Rapid City, South Dakota announced a policy banning Native People, saying she can’t tell the difference between a “good Indian” and a “bad Indian.” This isn’t 1950, and that’s not only racist and wrong — it’s against the law. We’re asking the Department of Justice to investigate this Constitutional violation and put a stop to it before others follow her bad lead.

Will you send a message to stand up against this blatant discrimination?

Additional Resources

Interesting and noteworthy finds


Lecture Series on the Silkwood Trial

Part 1: Introduction by Sara Nelson

Part 2: The Investigation

Part 3: The Trial

Part 4: Conclusion

Interested in hearing the full story of the Silkwood Trial? Join Danny and Sara in this 4-part deep dive lecture series they recorded as part of Danny’s recurring course at UC Santa Cruz, The Trajectory of Justice in America.


A Substantially Accurate' Drama About Karen Silkwood

Did you know that Karen Silkwood’s story was made into a movie in 1983, starring Meryl Streep, Kurt Douglas, and Cher? Silkwood, as it was named, follows Karen’s life up to her murder and captures many of the important details of her discoveries - enough to stir up some controversy when it was first released. The New York Times editorial board published a harsh review attacking the film soon after, but Christic Institute co-founder Fr. Bill Davis pushed back in the opinion piece you can read above.


The Paranoid style in the Supreme Court

This issue of the Harvard Law Review explores the extremist motivations that tie together the recent Supreme Court rulings that have shaken the nation.

Thanks for reading! Join us again next month, and please follow us on social channels @RomeroInstitute for up-to-date coverage of our justice work.

- Sara Nelson, Danny Sheehan, and the rest of the Convergence team

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