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Diablo Canyon on-site workforce 'greatly reduced' 

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, PG&E has asked all but essential employees at Diablo Canyon Power Plant to work from home, as the utility takes unprecedented measures to try to protect the safe and reliable operation of California's last remaining nuclear power plant throughout the crisis.

click to enlarge STILL OPERATING PG&E has reduced on-site staffing at Diablo Canyon Power Plant as a measure to ensure the nuclear plant's safe operation through the COVID-19 crisis. - FILE PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • File Photo By Steve E. Miller
  • STILL OPERATING PG&E has reduced on-site staffing at Diablo Canyon Power Plant as a measure to ensure the nuclear plant's safe operation through the COVID-19 crisis.

Suzanne Hosn, a PG&E spokesperson, told New Times that PG&E activated its emergency operations center in response to COVID-19 and is now implementing a "holistic pandemic response plan" at the Diablo Canyon Power Plant.

A core component of that plan is to limit the plant's on-site workforce to only essential operations, maintenance, and security employees, in an effort to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread.

"We've implemented a number of protective actions at the power plant to protect the health and safety of our workforce and ensure the safe and reliable operation and maintenance of the units," Hosn said by phone on March 24. "We're safely operating the plant and we have the staffing that we need. It's a greatly reduced number, but we're at required staffing."

Another COVID-19 protection measure involves rotating shifts at the plant in separate groups, so that in the event one worker tests positive for the virus and compromises team members, a different group can safely step in.

"A variety of scenarios have been prepared" with respect to the progression of COVID-19 and its impacts, Hosn added.

PG&E had an existing pandemic response plan before COVID-19, but it's now being updated to meet the demands of the current situation.

"Those plans, with the potential thresholds for implementation, are being very thoughtfully developed," Hosn said, "and it's important to understand that those are being developed with input from our regulators."

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the federal agency that licenses and oversees the operation of nuclear power plants, said on its website that it's "communicating regularly with nuclear plants to discuss current activities and future plans" in light of COVID-19.

Resident inspectors at the NRC are continuing to make periodic visits to the plant sites and are also remotely monitoring plant data systems and other activities.

"The NRC will require plants to shut down if they cannot appropriately staff their facilities," the website states.

Hosn said that PG&E has been in "continuous contact" with the NRC about the status of Diablo Canyon and its emergency plans, and is also cooperating with any requests for information from the California Public Utilities Commission.

"Their oversight continues," she said.

With Diablo Canyon powering nearly 10 percent of the entire state's electrical grid, the nuclear plant is an essential operation that PG&E hopes goes uninterrupted by the pandemic.

"We are committed to providing safe and reliable energy and ensuring business continuity in these really challenging times," Hosn said.

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