Update: Safe Energy Project, Close Diablo Canyon Campaign – “This is a big deal, a big deal,” said California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom as he called for a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review of PG&E’s Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. This review could, we believe, lead to the closure of the state’s last remaining nuclear plant in the near future, and certainly long before the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s operating licenses for the plants two reactors expire in 2024 and 2025. Watch video of Newsom’s comments on the future of Diablo Canyon below.
A big deal, indeed, because Newsom, the second highest-ranking elected official in the State of California, also predicted that Diablo Canyon won’t stay open another ten years. “I just don’t see that this plant is going to survive beyond 2024, 2025. I just don’t see that. Now, I absolutely may be wrong but that’s my punditry. And there is a compelling argument as to why it shouldn’t,” Newsom observed, referring to the multiple earthquake faults that surround the plant.
By a simple twist of fate, Newsom and his fellow Commissioners on the California State Lands Commission (SLC) – State Comptroller Betty T. Yee (chair) and Finance Director Michael Cohen – have the power to close Diablo Canyon, should they decide to deny PG&E’s request for an extension of the lease the utility has for access to the ocean tidelands below the plant. The large intake and outtake pipes that suck Diablo Canyon’s cooling water in from the sea – at the rate of 2.5 billion gallons a day, returning it 18.5 degrees hotter and killing over a billion fish a year — lie directly on tidelands owned by the state and leased to PG&E. Click here for SF Chronicle article, “Can Gavin Newsom close California’s last nuclear plant?” (paywall).
Since construction boondoggles and earthquake upgrades delayed the opening of Diablo Canyon until 1984/85, these SLC tideland licenses expire in 2018/19 respectively, while the plant’s NRC operating licenses run through 2024/25. PG&E has asked the SLC for an extension of these licenses as a routine matter not subject to a CEQA review. Not so, said the SLC Commissioners, who unanimously voted to defer action on the PGE request until an environmental review has been completed. The Commissioners directed the staff to prepare a memo on the scope of such a review and report back at SLC’s next meeting on February 9, 2016.
The Safe Energy Project is closely monitoring these proceedings. We fully support Lt. Gov. Newsom’s position that a CEQA review is mandatory before the SLC can contemplate extending PG&E’s lease for Diablo Canyon’s water intake structures beyond the 2018 expiration date. We will continue to advocate closing this dangerous nuclear plant sooner rather than later, so the state can have sufficient lead time to plan to replace Diablo Canyon with 100% renewable, non-greenhouse gas-producing energy.