New report claims keeping Diablo Canyon open could cost up to $45 billion; PG&E responds
An environmental nonprofit released a report this week claiming that keeping Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant open past 2025 could cost electricity customers tens of billions of dollars.
Its operator, PG&E, responded by saying any cost estimates should come from official sources.
Until last year, PG&E had planned to shut down Diablo Canyon by 2025; but after the state and federal government gave more than a billion dollars in loans last year to keep the plant operating, PG&E is now seeking to extend its life until 2030.
The nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG) published a report Tuesday estimating how much that would cost ratepayers, or electricity customers.
It said keeping Diablo open could cost them between $20 and $45 billion dollars if it operated until 2045– which it could with a renewed federal license. Right now though, the plan is to only keep it open until 2030.
EWG Senior Energy Advisor Grant Smith said the actual costs of a 20-year extension could be even higher than their estimates.
“These aging nuclear plants cost a lot to operate, maintain- there’ll be additional capital and operating costs, and so it could be much higher than that,” Smith said.
The report estimates that the typical utility bill could go up by $55 to $124 per year.
EWG gathered the estimates of the plant’s capital and operating costs from data collected by the Utility Reform Network, a consumer advocacy organization. The report argues that the potential risks of operating an aging nuclear plant, such as reactor leaks or earthquakes, may add even more financial burden.
PG&E Spokesperson Suzanne Hosn said she feels it’s important to note that the EWG is an anti-nuclear advocacy group. She suggests relying on official state agencies for cost estimates.
“The designated venue for discussions about customer rate impacts is the California Public Utilities Commission,” Hosn said.
Hosn said Diablo Canyon plays a crucial role in California’s shift to renewable and clean energy sources to address the effects of global warming.
Right now, it's the largest clean energy producer in the state, providing about 17% of zero-carbon-electricity and 9% of the total electricity in California.
However, Grant said the EWG report argues the state should invest in what he calls less costly and less risky sources of renewable energy, like solar power and battery storage.
“This plant’s going to be hugely expensive,” Grant said. “There are other much safer options.”
Hosn said the California Energy Commission is looking into alternative renewable energy options.
“The CEC is going to be issuing a report by the end of the third quarter of this year that evaluates the costs of sufficiently mature alternatives to Diablo Canyon that could come online in a timely fashion and that could also provide Diablo Canyon’s equivalent annual energy contribution,” Hosn said.
“So we look forward to those outcomes,” Hosn added.
However, Hosn said PG&E will push to renew Diablo’s license as long as it remains the biggest source of clean energy in California.
“PG&E is pursuing license renewal for Diablo Canyon, to ensure statewide electrical reliability and to minimize greenhouse gas emissions, as California transitions to a clean energy future,” Hosn said.
PG&E has until the end of the year to file its application to extend Diablo Canyon’s life.