EWG: Bailout to keep Diablo Canyon nuclear plant running ‘dangerous and dumb’

EWG will ‘explore every opportunity to block extension’

SAN FRANCISCO – California lawmakers have voted to approve Senate Bill 846, thereby paving the way to keep the aging Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant operating. This action can only hurt the state’s shift to safe, renewable energy and prolong the risk of a disaster at the plant, says the Environmental Working Group.

A two-thirds majority of state Assembly and Senate members voted to rush through a bailout bill for the facility, satisfying Gov. Gavin Newsom's goal. The bill, which Newsom intends to sign and which goes into effect immediately, extends the plant’s carefully planned and negotiated 2025 retirement to 2030. Jamming the measure through the legislature in the last week of the session didn’t give lawmakers and their staffs enough time to determine whether California even needs the controversial plant to keep operating.

If they’d had that chance, the answer would have been clear: Existing or additional clean energy resources could provide adequate electric service in the state by the time the plant would have been completely retired in 2025. In fact, no state agency with expertise in the matter confirmed that keeping Diablo Canyon open was a necessity to meet demand in the coming years. California remains ahead in its goal of switching to wind, solar, and geothermal energy sources.

Instead, Californians are saddled with the cost of continuing to prop up the unnecessary and unsafe nuclear power plant. The new law provides that Pacific Gas & Electric, which operates the facility, gets a large loan that may be forgivable and ratepayers statewide will absorb any costs that arise from operating the plant.

“The rush by lawmakers and Gov. Newsom to keep Diablo Canyon running is dangerous and dumb and will only set back California’s drive to make solar and wind the prevailing sources of electricity in the state,” said EWG President and Bay Area resident Ken Cook. “EWG will explore every available opportunity – administratively, legally and policy-wise – to prevent the extended operation of Diablo Canyon.

Diablo Canyon sits near several fault lines that put the plant at risk from an earthquake. It generates only about 6 percent of California’s electricity, whereas about a quarter comes from solar power, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

At one point on April 30, 100 percent of the state’s electricity came from clean energy sources, with solar producing more than 12,300 megawatts, or two-thirds, of the 18,000 megawatts needed at the time to power the entire state. The rest came from wind, geothermal and hydropower – underscoring the fact that there’s no need for Diablo Canyon.

“The much smarter and safer path would have been passing legislation to ramp up investments in utility-scale, residential and community solar,” said Cook. “Allowing Diablo Canyon to keep operating will only provide utilities like PG&E yet another excuse to slow-walk the transition to those renewable and far less expensive energy sources while continuing to worry about their bottom line and their investors’ stake.”

Concerns over the safety of Diablo Canyon stretch back decades, mostly over its proximity to several fault lines and harm to aquatic life from the massive discharge of heated water into the ocean. In 2014, a lead inspector for the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission called for Diablo Canyon to be shuttered, citing serious concerns the plant may not be “seismically safe.”

Six years ago, the state, with support from then-Lieutenant Gov. Newsom, reached an agreement with environmentalists workers, and the nearby local governments to close the plant by 2025.

“It is now clear that Gov. Newsom and his administration must do everything possible to increase the contribution of renewables in the next five years to eliminate any chance of another outrageous extension for Diablo Canyon,” said Bill Allayaud, director of government affairs for EWG’s California operation.

“EWG believes a top priority should be getting rooftop solar and battery storage for the homes of working- and middle-class families and small businesses, and, at the same time, not imposing any new taxes or fees that will put solar out of reach for millions of the state’s families,” Allayaud said.


The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy, and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.

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