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Environment and Energy

Nuclear advocates, critics respond to Diablo Canyon closure reconsideration

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San Luis Obispo County
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California’s last remaining nuclear energy facility, Diablo Canyon in San Luis Obispo County, produces enough carbon-free energy to power three million homes each year. That’s about seven percent of the state’s annual energy profile — and it’s planned for closure by 2025.

But Governor Gavin Newsom told the L.A. Times editorial board he’s worried about energy shortages when Diablo goes offline, and he may consider trying to delay the closure.

Newsom said he’s planning to ask for a share of the $6 billion in federal funds President Biden announced last month, which are meant to save nuclear plants at risk of closing.

Central Coast Democratic Congressman Salud Carbajal said he supports renewable energy but wants buy-in from locals if the plant's closure is delayed.

“If Governor Newsom is changing course, it is imperative for him to include the same community stakeholders who were part of the original decision to retire the Diablo Canyon Power Plant,” Congressman Carbajal said.

Diablo Canyon’s operator, utility PG&E, has previously said it doesn’t plan to renew the plant’s operating license past 2025. But in a statement Friday, PG&E Spokesperson Suzanne Hosn said the utility is committed to California’s clean energy future and is open to considering all options to ensure continued safe and reliable energy delivery to customers.

Newsom made clear the plant will still close eventually, even if there is a delay.

Nuclear energy advocates say the shift to renewables isn’t happening fast enough in California to make up for the loss of Diablo Canyon. Heather Hoff works at the power plant and founded the nuclear advocacy group Mothers for Nuclear.

Speaking on behalf of the group, Hoff said the plant is a huge source of clean energy and keeping it open for longer would reduce the state’s reliance on fossil fuels.

“I’m just so glad that people are willing to talk about it and keep considering that as an option," Hoff said. "It’s not too late.”

Jane Swanson with San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace, an anti-nuclear group, said she’s concerned with the safety of nuclear energy.

“It makes me feel quite terrified," Swanson said. "Every day, every year it operates further, it becomes older and less reliable.”

PG&E said the plant has a long-standing record of safe operation. Still, Swanson said Mothers for Peace would evaluate possibilities for legal action to block the continued operation of the plant if PG&E chooses to renew their license.

The deadline for PG&E to apply for the federal funds is May 19th.

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