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For the first time in the 40-plus-year history of San Luis Obispo County's only nuclear power plant, individuals gathered Monday to support Diablo Canyon's continued operation rather than oppose it.

"It's always been the adversaries," Ellie Ripley, of Arroyo Grande, said about the several decades worth of protests and public outcry aimed at closing Diablo Canyon Power Plant. "Not all nuclear plants have adversaries."

Ripley was among a group of about 20 people that lined a section of Monterey Street in front of the County Government Center in downtown San Luis Obispo on Presidents Day sporting green shirts and signs supporting Diablo Canyon and "green nuclear power."

"There's a lot of misunderstanding about nuclear power," Ripley added. "We want to reverse that and keep Diablo Canyon running. We want to bring positive awareness to the community about nuclear power."

Diablo Canyon, a twin-reactor facility, was constructed in the early 1980s, with the reactors coming online in 1985 and 1986, respectively. The plant is owned and operated by Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and sits on the coast between Avila Beach and Los Osos.

Over the years, the nuclear plant has been at the forefront of numerous government meetings where watchdog groups like Mothers for Peace have repeatedly called for its closure.

A voice for those such as Ripley, who led tours at Diablo Canyon for 23 years, was often silenced by the voices against nuclear energy, which is why Orcutt resident Bill Gloege formed the all-citizens group, Californians for Green Nuclear Power, and helped organize Monday's rally, he said.

"I was frustrated by all the false information put out about nuclear power," Gloege said. "I knew it wasn't true."

Members of Californians for Green Nuclear Power (CGNP) believe nuclear power is the cleanest and most reliable source of energy available and would like to see the technology embraced rather than protested against. 

"It's a real powerful way to generate power without any carbon dioxide," said Gene Nelson, CGNP government liasion. "That's a big, big difference (from fossil fuels)."

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Group members hope by holding rallies and speaking at public meetings in support of Diablo Canyon, their efforts will encourage others to learn about nuclear energy and what they call "green power," which doesn't harness the sun or wind to produce energy.

"Global warming is the real bogey man coming after us (not nuclear energy)," Gloege said. "That's what I am afraid of."

Californians for Green Nuclear Power meets twice monthly in Pismo Beach and welcome new members.

For more information, visit www.cgnp.org.

April Charlton covers South San Luis Obispo County for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow her on Twitter @WordsDawn.

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