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Safety a concern if top employees leave Diablo Canyon before full closure

Bree Zender
Members of the Diablo Canyon Independent Saftey Committee meet to discuss the details of letting employees go if the plant goes through with its proposed closure.

Discussions this week on the proposed 2025 closure of the Diablo Canyon Power Plant took a look at the safety of having a years-long transition from full operation to shuttering of California's last nuclear power plant. The facility'sIndependent Safety Committeemet this week in Avila Beach for a two-day session. 

PG&E officials say the company will be offering employees annual monetary incentives above their base pay to encourage workers to stay at the plant. This will happen in two tiers - or phases, said PG&E's Blair Jones.

But not everyone on the committee thought this was a good idea. Committee member Dr. Robert Budnitz said he worries for the safety of the plant, if it was to go several months without its top employees.

“I don’t believe for a minute that [the] last year, you’re going to have the proper staff. You have 100 people at this station who are the best of the best of the best… then there’s the other thousand,” Budnitz said. “Which of those are going to be here right to the last day? And then get a job that next day? All of them? I don’t believe it.”

Last November, PG&E announced an agreement to pay out $85 million to the county and several Central Coast cities and public schools to help ease the financial blow of lost tax revenue after the plant closes. 

In April, the California Public Utilities Commission held hearings on PG&E’s plan to increase customer rates to fund the agreement.

The Diablo Canyon Independent Safety Committee will hold its next public meeting in October.

CORRECTION: A previous version of the story said PG&E plans to "let go" of employees in two phases in the years approaching the closure. PG&E officials say this is not true; rather the company is offering employees - in two phases - extra salary as incentive to stay until the plant closes.  We have corrected the text. 

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