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SLO County to ask Gov. Newsom to keep Diablo Canyon open 

The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors will formally ask Gov. Gavin Newsom to "do everything he can" to postpone the looming decommission of Diablo Canyon Power Plant.

At its Feb. 15 meeting, SLO County supervisors heard from Stanford and MIT researchers who authored a recent paper making the case for keeping the plant open for at least another decade—and voted 3-1 after their presentation to send a letter to Newsom promoting that route.

"Any pathway to keeping the power plant open would start right here," 5th District Supervisor Debbie Arnold said.

click to enlarge DEAR GOVERNOR The SLO County Board of Supervisors will soon send a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom asking him to work with PG&E to keep Diablo Canyon Power Plant open. - PHOTO COURTESY OF SLO COUNTY
  • Photo Courtesy Of SLO County
  • DEAR GOVERNOR The SLO County Board of Supervisors will soon send a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom asking him to work with PG&E to keep Diablo Canyon Power Plant open.

The board's vote came as California faces renewed pressure from local and national stakeholders to reconsider its stance on nuclear power. The Stanford/MIT paper makes the argument that keeping Diablo Canyon open through 2035 would result in lower carbon emissions and better grid reliability.

Ejeong Baik, one of the paper's authors out of Stanford, explained that Diablo Canyon is a "clean firm resource"—meaning it's reliable year-round.

"We're seeing a grid size that's going to increase," Baik told the board via Zoom. "Most analyses really show that the future sources of energy will largely come from intermittent renewable resources. But the sun doesn't always shine; the wind doesn't always blow."

In their discussion after the Stanford/MIT presentation, the Board of Supervisors debated what power, if any, it had to influence the future course of Diablo Canyon, which is owned by PG&E and regulated by state and federal agencies.

"The owner of this plant is not interested in pursuing a path other than its decommissioning," 2nd District Supervisor Bruce Gibson said. "It cites the regulatory environment. ... That regulatory environment effectively does not include this Board of Supervisors."

During public comment, PG&E spokesperson Tom Jones confirmed that unfriendly state policies on nuclear energy pushed the company to make its 2016 decision to close the plant in 2024 and 2025. He noted that PG&E remains fully committed to that path.

Fourth District Supervisor Lynn Compton said that while she supports efforts to save Diablo, she feared that "the train had left the station."

"Because of the Legislature and decisions that were made that, really, we had no impact or influence over, this was a foregone conclusion," Compton said, but added: "It seems like there's slowly but surely a little more interest in [keeping it open], if we can get the Legislature to work with us."

Arnold made the motion to send a letter to Newsom, which she said would "ask that he do everything he can to work with PG&E to ensure they have access to all the permits necessary to keep Diablo Canyon open."

Gibson dissented in that vote, while 3rd District Supervisor Dawn Ortiz-Legg recused herself due to recent employment with PG&E.

In opposing the motion, Gibson argued that leaders in government and the power sector would be better off focusing their efforts "on accelerating the deployment of truly renewable energy."

"This is, if not a train leaving the station, a freighter leaving the dock," Gibson said. "Something as complicated as keeping a nuclear power plant open, you don't turn that on a dime. Might this be reversed? I tend to think it's highly unlikely it would be." Δ

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