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Environmental groups oppose longer life for CA nuclear plant

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Leroy N. Soetoro

May 26, 2022, 1:47:10 PM5/26/22

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Dozens of environmental and anti-nuclear organizations
expressed opposition Tuesday to any attempt to extend the life of
California’s last operating nuclear power plant, challenging suggestions
that its electricity is needed to meet potential future shortages in the
nation's most populous state.

Last month, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom raised the possibility that the
Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant — which sits on a coastal bluff halfway
between San Francisco and Los Angeles — could keep running beyond a
scheduled closing by 2025. His office said the governor is in favor of
“keeping all options on the table to ensure we have a reliable
(electricity) grid.”

In a letter to Newsom, groups that included San Luis Obispo Mothers for
Peace, the Oregon Conservancy Foundation, the Snake River Alliance and the
Ohio Nuclear Free Network said the plant is old, unsafe and too close to
earthquake faults that pose a threat to the twin reactors.

“Your suggestion to extend the operational life of the Diablo Canyon
nuclear facility is an outrage,” they wrote. “Diablo Canyon is dangerous,
dirty and expensive. It must retire as planned.”

The Democratic governor has no direct authority over the operating license
for the plant. He floated the idea that owner Pacific Gas & Electric could
seek a share of $6 billion in federal funding the Biden administration
established to rescue nuclear plants at risk of closing.

PG&E, which in 2016 decided to shutter the plant by 2025, did not directly
address Newsom’s suggestion at the time or say whether the company would
consider seeking federal dollars to remain open beyond the scheduled

PG&E announced the closing plan in 2016 as part of a deal with
environmentalists and union workers, citing a “recognition that
California’s new energy policies will significantly reduce the need for
Diablo Canyon’s electricity output.” But Newsom’s suggestion highlights
that the thinking has shifted, as the state looks for reliable power
sources amid a changing global climate as California gradually shifts to
solar, wind and other renewables.

Recently, state officials warned that extended drought, extreme heat and
wildfires — paired with supply chain and regulatory issues hampering the
solar industry — will create challenges for energy reliability this summer
and into coming years.

The environmental groups argued that continuing to operate the plant
beyond its scheduled closing would generate hundreds of tons of highly
radioactive waste, with no permanent storage site for it. And they said
state, by its own account, is lining up enough wind, solar and other
renewables to replace Diablo's electricity.

They also questioned whether any federal funds would be enough to unravel
the complex deal to close Diablo Canyon, which is regulated by state and
federal agencies.

Issues in play at Diablo Canyon range from a long-running debate over the
ability of structures to withstand earthquakes — one fault runs 650 yards
(594 meters) from the reactors — to the possibility PG&E might be ordered
by state regulators to spend potentially billions of dollars to modify or
replace the plant’s cooling system, which sucks up ocean water and has
been blamed for killing fish and other marine life.

Newsom continues to support closure of the plant “in the long term” as the
state moves to renewable energy.

There are 55 commercial nuclear power plants with 93 nuclear reactors in
28 U.S. states. Nuclear power provides about 20% of electricity in the
U.S., or about half the nation’s carbon-free energy.

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