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No mo' Diablo? PG&E to cease production of nuclear power at plant by 2025 

SLO County residents woke up June 22 to the announcement that PG&E planned to phase out its production of nuclear power at the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant by 2025. 

According to the company’s announcement, if all goes as planned, the controversial facility, which has sat perched over the ocean near Avila Beach since the 1980s, will be decommissioned in nine years, when the operation licenses for its two nuclear reactors are set to expire.

click to enlarge GOODBYE DIABLO:  PG&E announced plans to cease operations at its Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant by 2025. - FILE PHOTO
  • FILE PHOTO
  • GOODBYE DIABLO: PG&E announced plans to cease operations at its Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant by 2025.

“As we make this transition, Diablo Canyon’s full output will no longer be required,” PG&E Corporation Chairman, CEO, and President Tony Earley said in a written statement on the company’s website. “As a result, we will not seek to relicense the facility beyond 2025 pending approval of the joint energy proposal.”

PG&E partnered with a small group of environmental and labor organizations to create a joint proposal that would replace the power output from Diablo Canyon with a portfolio of greenhouse-gas-free energy sources to meet new changes in California’s “energy landscape.”

The plant’s operation has long been a source of friction and controversy in SLO County, and news of its planned shuttering hasn’t changed that. After the shutdown plans were announced, organizations that had long opposed or supported Diablo Canyon’s operation were quick to jump in and give their two cents on the issue.

“Parts of this proposal usher in a bold new paradigm for the state’s energy future, but for those of us in San Luis Obispo, the proposal also provides an orderly path to phase out the reactors,” said Rochelle Becker, executive director for the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility, one of the organizations that PG&E partnered with to develop the joint proposal. 

An organization arguing to keep the reactors at Diablo operating also weighed in. Californians for Green Nuclear Power, released a scathing statement characterizing PG&E’s decision as “cowardice,” claiming that shuttering the plant would lead to higher power bills and an increase in fossil fuel combustion.

“The PG&E decision indicates the severe shortcomings in the California and the national regulatory environment,” Gene Nelson, the group’s government liaison said.

While the two sides will likely continue to argue about the plant as it moves toward a shutdown, SLO County residents and officials are left to wonder just what a future without the plant, which pumps nearly $1 billion into the local economy on an annual basis and employs roughly 1,500 workers, will look like. According to the joint agreement, PG&E will pay San Luis Obispo County nearly $50 million to offset declining property taxes through 2025, and includes incentives for retaining employees though 2025.

The nine year lead time will also give SLO County time to brace for the economic impact, which will be felt everywhere from the job market to the county’s public schools, which receive millions in funding from PG&E.

“People should be concerned about the local impact this plant closure will have on our community,” SLO County Administrative Officer Dan Buckshi said in a statement posted to the county’s website. “The county has been planning for this possibility for many years and will continue to work with the community to mitigate some of the expected economic impacts.”

In the meantime, many of the lengthy regulatory processes that the plant is currently in the midst of will continue to move forward. Those include hearings with California Public Utilities Commission, which must give PG&E its blessing to move forward with the joint agreement. The planned closure of the plant is also contingent on the State Land Commission’s approval to extend Diablo Canyon’s permit to operate its cooling system, which expires in 2018.

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