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Nuclear power receives its death sentence in California: regulators vote to shut down Diablo Canyon

Rob Nikolewski, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in News & Features

SAN DIEGO--The last remaining nuclear power plant in California will begin shutting down operations in six years, after state regulators Thursday unanimously approved a plan outlining details of the closure.

"We chart a new energy future by phasing out nuclear power here in California," Michael Picker, the president of the California Public Utilities Commission, said before the 5-0 vote. "We agree the time has come."

The decision comes after the nuclear plant's operator, Pacific Gas & Electric, in 2016 announced an agreement with a collection of environmental and labor groups to shutter the plant that has delivered electricity since 1985.

The utility said Diablo Canyon would be uneconomical to run in the near future because of changes in California's power grid -- specifically, the growth of renewable energy sources, increased energy efficiency measures and the migration of more customers from traditional utilities to community choice aggregation, or CCA, for their local electricity needs.

Diablo Canyon had been the last remaining nuclear plant in the state, after the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station closed its doors in January 2012 following a small radiation leak from a steam generator.

While California will soon have no nuclear plants in operation, there are 99 nuclear reactors operating in the United States.

 

Under Thursday's decision, Unit 1 will close in 2024, and Unit 2 is scheduled for retirement in 2025, the years the federal licenses for the respective units expire.

Located on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean in San Luis Obispo County, Diablo Canyon generates almost 18,000 gigawatt-hours of power each year, powering 1.7 million homes.

According to the most recent figures from the California Energy Commission, nuclear power accounted for 9.18 percent of the state's power mix, without producing greenhouse gases.

Supporters of nuclear energy said closing Diablo Canyon will cause the state to use more natural gas -- a fossil fuel -- in order to replace the electricity generated by the plant.

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