Extraordinary Agreement to Retire California's Last Nuclear Power Plant
(Sacramento) - California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom has embraced a proposal that will see Diablo Canyon Power Plant - California's last remaining nuclear power plant - retire by 2025. The joint proposal agreed by the utility-owner PG&E, Friends of the Earth, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245, and others would see Diablo Canyon's power replaced through energy efficiencies and greenhouse gas-free renewable energy procurement, along with commitments to employee security and mitigation of other local impacts. The future of Diablo Canyon Power Plant was posed by Lt. Governor Newsom as Chair of the State Lands Commission in December 2015, while considering an application to extend two of the plant's leases.
"In its recognition that renewable energy is more cost-effective and viable than nuclear power, this proposal marks the beginning of an extraordinary chapter in energy production that will command attention around the world," said Lt. Governor Newsom. "It is a validation of California's leadership in renewable energy. I commend the efforts of the parties to this proposal for uniting behind a previously unthinkable solution to a remarkably complex question, and one that goes the extra distance to consider the community and employees connected to Diablo Canyon."
Under the joint proposal, PG&E will retire both nuclear reactors at Diablo Canyon - which are surrounded by a patchwork of recently discovered seismic fault lines - by 2025 and withdraw its application to the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a 20-year renewal of of its operating license.
"In the years ahead, the need to fight climate change will require different parties and interests to come together. This agreement proves that is possible and that it will happen. In recognizing that we can and should replace Diablo Canyon with clean, safe, cost competitive and greenhouse-gas-free renewable energy, efficiency and energy storage, we are creating a blueprint for the future. This is another, decisive instance of California leading the way," said Damon Moglen, at Friends of the Earth. "We appreciate the fair-minded interest in this issue at the State Lands Commission. We hope that our ability to negotiate this agreement will make it possible for the Commission to join us in making history."
Diablo Canyon Power Plant generates around nine percent of California's annual electricity production and will be replaced exclusively through energy efficiencies and renewable resources under the joint proposal. Furthermore, starting in 2031, PG&E has committed to providing 55 percent of its total retail sales from renewable energy sources, exceeding the state's 50 percent Renewable Portfolio Standard.
"We laud PG&E for acknowledging the inevitable changes in the way we make and use energy in our state. Parts of this proposal usher in a bold new paradigm for the state's energy future, but for those of us in San Luis Obispo, the proposal also provides an orderly path to phase out the reactors," said Rochelle Becker, Executive Director of the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility. "After the sudden and chaotic closure of the San Onofre facility - and others around the country - it became clear that a more comprehensive and responsible approach was needed, one that would support the former host communities."
The joint proposal also addresses Diablo Canyon's role as one of the largest employers, taxpayers and charitable contributors in the San Luis Obispo region and provides for a Community Impacts Mitigation Program for local tax losses, along with employee retention and retraining programs.
"This proposal marks an era for Diablo Canyon employees, their families, and the San Luis Obispo community that moves beyond regulatory and corporate uncertainty," said Tom Dalzell, business manager at IBEW Local 1245, who represent many PG&E employees at Diablo Canyon. "It is an era that ultimately offers more security with fair worker protections, which I know Lt. Governor Newsom will continue to prioritize and champion, as he has done throughout this process."
Significantly, the joint proposal recognizes that greenhouse gas (GHG) free renewable energy as the best economic option for PG&E customers in the long term, with a landmark statement that "Parties agree that the orderly replacement of [Diablo Canyon Power Plant] with GHG free resources will be the reliable, flexible, and cost-effective solution for PG&E's customers." Nuclear energy faces increased regulatory hurdles, especially in earthquake prone regions like California, which were heightened by Japan's Fukushima disaster in 2011.
"Clearly we are nearing the end of an age of giant baseload power plants, for all the right reasons," said Ralph Cavanagh, Energy Program Co-Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. "All Californians stand to gain, economically and environmentally, from a more flexible power system that makes ever more efficient use of increasingly renewable electricity."
Lt. Governor Newsom and the State Lands Commissioners will now consider PG&E's application to extend its existing leases temporarily through 2025, at its next meeting in Sacramento on June 28, 2016. The entire joint proposal can be read here.