CPUC Votes to Close Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant

PHOTO: DOC SEARLS

Diablo Canyon to Close by 2025

In a unanimous vote Jan. 11, the California Public Utilities Commission approved Pacific Gas and Electric Company's request to retire the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant by 2025.

In a unanimous vote Jan. 11, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved Pacific Gas and Electric Company's request to retire the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant in San Luis Obispo by 2025. The nuclear facility, which generates almost 18,000 gigawatt-hours of power each year to power 1.7 million homes, will begin shutdown operations starting in 2024.

The decision comes after PG&E, the plant's owner, announced an agreement in 2016 with a collection of environmental and labor groups to shutter the plant, which has been delivering electricity since 1985. PG&E had filed an Application with the CPUC on August 11, 2016, proposing to retire Diablo Canyon when its federal operating licenses expire in 2024 and 2025.

In making its decision, CPUC evaluated the power plant's closure schedule, PG&E’s request for replacement procurement, and requests for cost recovery. "The plant is no longer economic, and the owner, PG&E, has asked to close it down," said CPUC President Michael Picker, the commissioner assigned to the proceeding. "We looked hard at all the arguments, and the commission agrees that the time has come."

Pacific Gas and Electric Company released a statement after the commission's vote, saying the proposal to close the plant "represented a significant milestone in the planning to meet California's ambitious clean energy vision. We appreciate the CPUC's thoughtful consideration of this complex issue and its approval of certain elements. While we are disappointed that they did not approve the full employee retention program, as well as the community impact mitigation and energy efficiency programs, we are appreciative that the CPUC took the positive step to increase the amount of funding for employee retention beyond their original proposed decision. The joint proposal represents an array of interests from many parties who joined together to promote the best path forward for our state and PG&E's customers. Since the full proposal was not approved, in line with our agreement, PG&E will be meeting to confer with our labor, community and environmental group partners in the days ahead about the decision, our next steps and the path forward."

Though PG&E noted it saw less of a need for Diablo's carbon-free output because of projected increases in renewable energy, environmental groups were concerned about what type of energy sources will be used to replace the nuclear power. According to the most recent figures from the California Energy Commission, nuclear power accounted for 9.18 percent of the state's power mix, without contributing to the production of greenhouse gases.

"We really have to make sure that as we’re phasing out and getting rid of our nuclear power we're not replacing it with dirty and dangerous fossil fuels like natural gas and that we're moving to a 100 percent clean, renewable economy," said Dan Jacobson, state director of Environment California.

Diablo Canyon is located near the Shoreline fault line, which was not discovered until after the facility was constructed, as well as the Hosgri fault. Environmental groups have long called for closure of the power plant due to questions about whether it can be sufficiently earthquake-proofed, with concerns increasing after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011.

Diablo Canyon is the state's last nuclear plant after the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station closed in January 2012 after alloy tubing in one of the new steam generators leaked a small amount of radiation.

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