California’s last nuclear power reactors to shutter by 2025
Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) announced the closure of California’s last online nuclear power electrical generating plant today in an agreement that was met with jubilation by anti-nuclear environmentalists.
“Each of Diablo Canyon’s nuclear reactors contains 1,000 times the radioactivity of the Hiroshima bomb,” said Robert Dodge MD, president of Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles (PSR-LA). “There are four nearby earthquake faults capable of causing ground motion far greater that than the plant was designed to withstand – a disaster waiting to happen. The closure of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, along with plans to transition to renewable energy, is a victory for public health.”
The historic achievement means that the PG&E’s Diablo Canyon Power Plant on the Pacific Coast in San Luis Obispo County will stop supplying its nine percent of California’s energy consumption when its license expires in 2025. In the process, PG&E has avoided what promised to be a long and hard-fought battle over any extension of its license due to new information about major earthquake faults near the plant, including one less than a half mile offshore.
“California’s energy landscape is changing dramatically with energy efficiency, renewables and storage being central to the state’s energy policy,” said PG&E Corporation Chairman, CEO and President Tony Earley in a statement today. “As we make this transition, Diablo Canyon’s full output will no longer be required. As a result, we will not seek to relicense the facility beyond 2025 pending approval of the joint energy proposal.”
Reaction from around California was nearly unanimous in celebrating the decision to say goodbye to nuclear energy.
“In 2011, I learned that the seismic risk at Diablo Canyon was much more dangerous than we thought, so I applaud PG&E’s decision to cease operations at Diablo Canyon after its license expires in 2025, and I appreciate that Friends of the Earth will remain focused on the safety issues while the plant is still operating,” said Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said in a statement sent to EnviroReporter.com. “The news that nuclear power will be replaced by renewables is heartening.”
Now comes the hard part. “Once shuttered, the plant will still have to wrestle with storage for the highly toxic and long lived spent fuel generated by its operation,” PSR-LA warned in its statement. “Spent fuel is more than 10 times more radioactive than the core of the reactor and presents ongoing safety and security concerns.”
Diablo Canyon’s security concerns are less acute than those at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) about 250 miles to the south bordering the coastal city of San Clemente. The last reactor there shut three years ago but is becoming an even more acute potential terrorist target than it was when EnviroReporter.com’s 2013 exposé Black Swan SONGS was published, due to plans to place spent nuclear fuel in thin-skinned metal containers in direct site of Pacific waters. Terrorists with speed boats and rocket launchers could destroy a huge part of Southern California with a successful strike in the future as we reported before even the advent of sworn American enemies ISIS.
Even with a three years head start on decommissioning, SONGS shutdown activists and local politicians appear to have disregarded this information in the attempt to have all of San Onofre’s spent nuclear fuel rods removed from the site to a high-level nuclear waste dump. The problem, of course, is that such a dump does not exist in the United States.
Diablo Canyon’s uniquely remote location precludes many of the dangers of decommissioning SONGS faces. With careful consideration of spent fuel placement, use of more robust metal containers and proactive vigilance on the part of PG&E, California political leaders and anti-nuclear activists can ensure that this fate doesn’t befall Diablo Canyon.