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Nuclear energy group pushes for Diablo Canyon's continued usage amid decommissioning debate

Benjamin Purper
Attendees of the American Nuclear Society's 2022 conference hold up signs supporting Diablo Canyon's continued usage.

Governor Gavin Newsom told the Los Angeles Times in April that he is reconsidering his desire to see the decommissioning of San Luis Obispo’s Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant over the next three years, as it's currently scheduled. The governor’s change of mind seems to have galvanized a pro-Diablo movement.

At the American Nuclear Society’s conference in Anaheim today, attendees gathered in front of the Hilton Hotel to show support for the plant's continued operation.

ANS President Steven Nesbit said that while Diablo Canyon may not need to stay open in the very long term, he feels the planned decommissioning in 2024 and 2025 would come at the wrong time.

"We wouldn't presume to tell the companies in California — the people of California — how long they ought to operate Diablo Canyon," Nesbit said. "We can't predict the future. It may make sense to shut the plant down and transition to other resources, but I do know this: based on what we know today, shutting down Diablo Canyon [in 2024 and 2025] is a really, really bad idea."

One of the other pro-Diablo speakers was Hunter Stearn, with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245. That’s a union group covering Northern and Central California, including SLO County. A big part of their membership is made up of workers at Diablo Canyon.

The Diablo Canyon Power Plant produces about 9% of the state's energy supply.

Stern said the organization supports the continued use of Diablo Canyon both for labor reasons and the fact that it does not emit greenhouse gases. But he also feels it is especially urgent to keep the plant open to keep the electrical grid stable amid projected outages both this summer and over the next few years.

"I think continued operations are fundamental for at least 10 years. Diablo provides the most base load power in the state of California today, and that's what we're missing," Stern said.

But not everyone is on board with delaying Diablo Canyon’s closure. Jane Swanson with San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace, an anti-nuclear group, talked to KCBX in May after Newsom’s comments about reversing his stance on decommissioning.

Swanson said her main concern is the potential for a catastrophic accident at Diablo Canyon.

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

Utility PG&E has repeatedly said that Diablo Canyon has a long-standing record of safe operation going back decades, and the ANS points to what they call the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s thorough oversight of the plant’s safety.

Both ANS and Mothers for Peace will hold expert panels on Diablo Canyon's decommissioning over the rest of this week.

Benjamin Purper came to KCBX in May of 2021 from California’s Inland Empire, where he spent three years as a reporter and Morning Edition host at KVCR in San Bernardino. Dozens of his stories have aired on KQED’s California Report, and his work has broadcast on NPR's news magazines, as well. In addition to radio, Ben has worked as a newspaper reporter and freelance writer.
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