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PG&E Agrees to Shut Down Diablo Canyon
Pacific Gas & Electric plans to shut down its Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, announcing the move June 21 and saying it reflects California's changing energy landscape. The utility announced a joint proposal with labor and leading environmental organizations that would increase its investment in energy efficiency, renewables, and storage beyond current state mandates while phasing out its production of nuclear power in California by 2025.
Only two months ago, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced it had decided to consider Friends of the Earth's 2014 petition about Diablo Canyon; in it, the environmental organization stated its concerns about the Diablo Canyon Power Plant's operational safety and its ability to safely shut down in the event of a nearby earthquake.
"Underpinning the agreement is the recognition that California's new energy policies will significantly reduce the need for Diablo Canyon's electricity output," PG&E said June 21. "There are several contributing factors, including the increase of the Renewable Portfolio Standard to 50 percent by 2030, doubling of energy efficiency goals under SB 350, the challenge of managing overgeneration and intermittency conditions under a resource portfolio increasingly influenced by solar and wind production, the growth rate of distributed energy resources, and the potential increases in the departure of PG&E's retail load customers to Community Choice Aggregation. The Joint Proposal would replace power produced by two nuclear reactors at the Diablo Canyon Power Plant with a cost-effective, greenhouse gas free portfolio of energy efficiency, renewables and energy storage. It includes a PG&E commitment to a 55 percent renewable energy target in 2031, an unprecedented voluntary commitment by a major U.S. energy company."
According to the company, parties to the joint proposal are PG&E, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245, Coalition of California Utility Employees, Friends of the Earth, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Environment California, and Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility.
"California's energy landscape is changing dramatically with energy efficiency, renewables, and storage being central to the state's energy policy. As we make this transition, Diablo Canyon's full output will no longer be required. As a result, we will not seek to relicense the facility beyond 2025 pending approval of the joint energy proposal. Importantly, this proposal recognizes the value of GHG-free nuclear power as an important bridge strategy to help ensure that power remains affordable and reliable and that we do not increase the use of fossil fuels while supporting California's vision for the future," said PG&E Corporation Chairman, CEO and President Tony Earley. "Supporting this is a coalition of labor and environmental partners with some diverse points of view. We came to this agreement with some different perspectives—and we continue to have some different perspectives—but the important thing is that we ultimately got to a shared point of view about the most appropriate and responsible path forward with respect to Diablo Canyon and how best to support the state's energy vision."
"We are incredibly proud of the men and women who have made Diablo Canyon one of the finest nuclear stations in the country and who, in doing so, have provided our state with GHG-free energy for three decades. We are committed to supporting our valued employees and the community and we will advocate on their behalf throughout this process. We believe the transition period included in this proposal represents a responsible approach that allows time for the needs of employees and the community to be properly addressed," said PG&E President, Electric, Geisha Williams.
The terms of the proposal state that PG&E will retire Diablo Canyon at the expiration of its current NRC operating licenses, and the parties will jointly propose and support the orderly replacement of Diablo Canyon with GHG-free resources. The operating licenses will expire on Nov. 2, 2024 (Unit 1), and Aug. 26, 2025 (Unit 2).
"This is an historic agreement," said Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth. "It sets a date for the certain end of nuclear power in California and assures replacement with clean, safe, cost-competitive, renewable energy; energy efficiency; and energy storage. It lays out an effective roadmap for a nuclear phase-out in the world's sixth-largest economy while assuring a green energy replacement plan to make California a global leader in fighting climate change." And Friends of the Earth said a technical and economic report it commissioned "served as a critical underpinning for the negotiations. The report, known as 'Plan B,' provided a detailed analysis of how power from the Diablo Canyon reactors could be replaced with renewable, efficiency and energy storage resources which would be both less expensive and greenhouse gas free."
The phase-out plan will now go to the California Public Utility Commission for consideration; Friends of the Earth (and other NGO parties to the agreement) reserve the right to continue to monitor Diablo Canyon and, should there be safety concerns, challenge continued operation. And the agreement contains provisions for the Diablo Canyon workforce and the community of San Luis Obispo. "We are pleased that the parties considered the impact of this agreement on the plant employees and the nearby community," said Pica. "The agreement provides funding necessary to ease the transition to a clean energy economy."