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'Strategic vision' released for Diablo Canyon decommissioning

Randol White/KCBX
Diablo Canyon is California's last operating nuclear power plant.

The Diablo Canyon Decommissioning Engagement Panel released its recommendations Tuesday for the future reuse of the state’s last nuclear power plant, as well as the property's surrounding lands and coastline. The facility is scheduled to shut down in 2025, and the panel—made up of various community leaders—is tasked with listening to public input and submitting a 'Strategic Vision' to the plant’s owner, PG&E.

The panel is made up of 11 volunteer members, a PG&E staffer and a hired facilitator. They’ve been hosting public meetings and workshops since May of 2018.

Key components of the Strategic Vision are that the decommissioning and decontamination process begin immediately upon plan shutdown, and when evaluating the most cost-effective way to do so, the highest priority should be given to the health and safety of the community and maintaining the environmental quality of the area.

Lauren Brown sits on the panel. He’s a retired scientist, businessperson, and former SLO Chamber of Commerce citizen of the year. He said when it came to considering what to do with the land surrounding Diablo, almost everyone was in consensus.

“The 12,000 acres of land, and fourteen miles of really pristine coastline, should be preserved for the benefit of future generations,” Brown said.

The panel recommends these lands—which include Wild Cherry Canyon—be conserved forever, for both resource protection and managed public use, such as hiking trails.

And there’s an economic component to the panel’s recommendations, which is bringing in outside companies or groups to repurpose non-radiologically contaminated buildings. Brown said Diablo’s administration building is a prime example and already hooked up to the California power grid.

“It is far larger in space than the largest building in downtown San Luis Obispo, which is the county government center,” Brown said

Brown said agencies like Cal Poly and the Port San Luis Harbor District have already expressed interest in the land, as have other companies and organizations. But Brown also said while there have been some “lively discussions,” about Diablo over the past six months, number one on everyone’s list is safety. The plant still needs to decommission, decontaminate and store radioactive material.

“We’re looking at a time frame of maybe 15 years before a lot of this can be made available,” Brown said.

How to safely store spent fuel on-site is the next topic the engagement panel will tackle in workshops and meetings on February 22 and 23, and March 13. But final decisions for what to do with Diablo will be made between PG&E and the California Public Utilities Commission.

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