Why wait until 2025 to close Diablo Canyon?
PG&E has reached an agreement (currently being reviewed by the state Public Utilities Commission) with environmental groups not to seek re-licensing for Diablo Canyon, thus ending energy production in 2025.
Some, including the Mothers for Peace in San Lois Obispo, are still working to close Diablo sooner. The administrative law judge in these PUC proceedings has agreed that considering closing the plant earlier than 2025 is a legitimate issue that can be addressed.
Pro nuclear groups have suggested such an early closure would be a blow to our state’s fight against global warming. However, even assuming nuclear power may be needed globally while transitioning from fossil fuels, Diablo itself has no impact on global warming and, as the most dangerously situated nuclear power plant in the U.S., according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the California Energy Commission (CEC), it is not worth the risk to California.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom put the issue in perspective last year when he directed the State Lands Commission to draw up a plan for thorough environmental review of PG&E’s Diablo Canyon power plant. “On the one hand we have Fukushima etched in our memories, and on the other hand we are tackling fossil-fuel-driven climate change,” Newsom said. “This is incredibly complex and of no surprise that decisions have been avoided.”
However, last June when the State Lands Commission voted on the environmental review Newsom requested, he did not vote for it.
In approving the lease to allow continued operation of Diablo past 2018, the Lands Commission claimed Diablo contributes “nearly” 10% of the state’s energy (this approval is currently being litigated by the World Business Academy).
Certainly, if nuclear power reduced our state’s greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent that would be impressive, but this inaccurate figure gives no realistic perspective on our contribution to climate change. Diablo Canyon, according to the California Energy Commissin, and to our state’s Legislative Analysts Office, only contributed 6 percent of the energy actually consumed in California in 2015 (The State Lands Commission inflates this to 9 percent by adding nuclear energy imported from Arizona, then apparently rounds up to 10 percent.)
The real figure goes even lower. In 2015, the state’s hydro power was the lowest this century because of the drought. A lower hydro percentage raises that of nuclear. In an average hydro year Diablo’s energy would only be 5 percent. And these California Energy Commission statistics exclude sources less than one megawatt, excluding all new roof top solar. If these sources are added Diablo’s 5 percent drops to potentially 4 percent or less.
When these facts were noted at a recent California Energy Commission meeting Chairman Robert Weisenmiller added that, in fact, generating electrical energy in California (see transcript pages 54-59) only produces a fraction of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions—12 percent to be exact.
When this is factored in, if Diablo Canyon saves any emissions at all, it is statistically insignificant. This explains why the California Energy Commission has no position on whether the immediate closure of Diablo would have any effect on state greenhouse gas emissions at all.
Furthermore, the state has a minimum 15 percent to 18 percent energy reserve, according to the energy commission, which suggests no new energy sources are needed to replace Diablo Canyon.