In less than a decade, Diablo Canyon will be nothing more than a memory as Pacific Gas & Electric, Co. (PG&E) has made an agreement with several other entities to not renew the plant’s operating licenses in 2025.
PG&E could have been forced to close the plant earlier if they did not get a lease extension on their cooling water discharge channel, water intake structure, breakwaters and associated infrastructure from the California State Lands Commission. However, according to land commission public information officer Sheri Pemberton, the lease extension was granted during a commission meeting on Tuesday.
However, the plan to close by 2025 is still contingent on the approval from California Public Utilities Commission. If it goes through, California will be the world’s sixth largest nuclear-free economy.
Reasons for closure
The closing of the plant comes in part from Senate Bill 350 mandating that half of California’s energy generation must come from renewable energy sources by 2030. California is pursuing aggressive renewable energy goals before the 2030 deadline.
PG&E collaborated with forces such as Friends of the Earth, an environmental advocacy group that was formed in response to Diablo Canyon’s creation, to come up with a solution to keep producing energy while meeting these state standards. The resolution is to cease all nuclear energy efforts in California, ending a chapter in California’s history with the closing of Diablo Canyon.
According to the joint proposal, the plant will be replaced with more energy efficient, renewable power sources and the continued use of greenhouse-gas-free resources. In addition, the proposal includes compensation for both current Diablo Canyon employees and the San Luis Obispo county.
How closure will affect San Luis Obispo: Employment
Diablo Canyon not only provided nuclear power, it also has provided many employment opportunities and economic benefits to San Luis Obispo since its opening in 1985.
Diablo Canyon has provided jobs for more than 1,500 people, 95 percent of whom are local to San Luis Obispo county, according to PG&E’s latest economic impact report for the plant. Diablo Canyon employees were notified of the plant’s plans as it was announced.
“We are incredibly proud of the men and women who have made Diablo Canyon one of the finest nuclear stations in the country,” PG&E President Geisha Williams said.
According to a PG&E press release, PG&E has agreed to offer employees a compensation that will include:
- A retention program and severance payments upon completion of employment.
- A retraining program to help adjust employees to the decommissioning project or to other company positions.
How closure will affect San Luis Obispo: Money
Diablo Canyon also provides local entities a large sum of money from property taxes and has paid more than $25 million in property taxes to the San Luis Obispo county, according to its economic impact report. That’s about as much as 5,000 homes, valued at $500,000 each.
PG&E has offered $50 million to San Luis Obispo county to offset the loss of property tax come 2025.
Nuclear power doesn’t pay the bills anymore
Experts on finance and energy have found that while other forms of energy are becoming cheaper, it has become less cost efficient to operate large, expensive nuclear power plants. Global trends are also drifting away from nuclear power.
As a result of a changing climate, nuclear power is being appropriated by more cost-efficient resources such natural gas, geothermal and wind energy.
kW-hr = kilowatt hour
The nuclear plant is perched on a seaside cliff by Avila Beach, just three miles away from the Hosgri Fault. The fault line was discovered in 1971, three years after construction began.
Concerns about the fault line and nuclear disaster came up again after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011 that resulted in approximately 1,000 deaths and massive radioactive contamination of the Japanese mainland.
Due to demands from state and federal lawmakers, PG&E gave documents to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission stating that Diablo Canyon could safely endure earthquakes, tsunamis and flooding.
Before Diablo Canyon was the last nuclear power plant in California, there was San Onofre plant in San Diego. The plant shut down in 2013 due to faulty equipment and the release of radioactive steam, as well as an ensuing debate over renewing its license after such an event.
The end to California’s long nuclear energy story
Ever since its birth, people have rallied against the existence of Diablo Canyon.
One of its oldest foes has been Friends of the Earth. The group has protested against the plant since before it opened. Now 45 years later, they get to help close its doors by participating in the joint proposal with PG&E.
“To be facing the end of this plant and, incredibly, its replacement with renewable energy and energy efficiency is a dream come true,” said Damon Moglen, Friends of the Earth senior strategic advisor.
Future plans for the site will continue to unfold over the next nine years.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated PG&E was seeking a lease for the Diablo Canyon land space. It has been corrected to say PG&E was seeking a renewed lease for use of their cooling water discharge channel, water intake structure, breakwaters and associated infrastructure at Diablo Canyon.