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Last Nuclear Plant In California Closing After 3 Decades

One of Pacific Gas and Electric's Diablo Canyon Power Plant's nuclear reactors in San Luis Obispo County, Nov. 3, 2008.
Michael A. Mariant / Associated Press
One of Pacific Gas and Electric's Diablo Canyon Power Plant's nuclear reactors in San Luis Obispo County, Nov. 3, 2008.

Last Nuclear Plant In California Closing After 3 Decades
Last Nuclear Plant In California Closing After 3 Decades GUEST: Ivan Penn, reporter, Los Angeles Times

The decision to close Diablo canyon means the end of nuclear energy generation in California. It increases the problem of what to do with nuclear waste. This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. It's Tuesday, June 21. Our top story on midday edition is the news that the Diablo canyon nuclear power plant in San Luis Obispo County is closing. Pacific Gas & Electric says it will not pursue a license renewal and plans to phase out the plant by 2025. The joint statement from the utility and environmental groups acknowledges that California's energy environment is changing and Diablo canyon's full output will no longer be required. I spoke with Ivan Penn, energy reporter for the Los Angeles times. Is this largely, a money-saving decision by PG Andy -- PG&E? You have a couple issues. Cost is always a big when, in this case you also have what has been a push, from the environmental groups, Diablo canyon, number one it was discovered after the operating license was issued. The nuclear plant was built on a fault and all of the potential dangers that could come from a major earthquake, in addition the plant would have to look at huge cooling towers, which is a cost issue. There are about 2 billion galleons -- gallons of water that is released from the plant. In order to upgrade to a new license renewal, Pacific Gas & Electric would have to get new cooling towers and that would cost them billions, wouldn't it? There have been some figures, that put it well into the billions. That's obviously, a major consideration. You have safety, environmental issues and costs. How much energy does Diablo canyon generate, for the area and how does the utility say it's going to be replaced? The technical pieces about 2160 MW, essentially would power 1.7 million homes. The idea is to replace that, with a variety of, what some are terming 21st century sources, renewables such as solar, wind, battery storage, various kinds of energy storage. You've got a number of different methods they are looking to employ. Is there presently enough renewable energy to make up for Diablo canyon? You have two different kinds of generation, the pro-nuclear side, argues a solar farm and a wind farm, they can't operate on a 24-hour basis, especially when you compare it to a nuclear plant. You are talking about, not only a plant that can run 24 hours a day seven days a week, but a plant that produces more electricity than any other generating source. Solar, obviously operates when the sun is shining and when the wind is blowing, you have limitations. The game changer is, some type of storage, whether that's lithium-ion batteries or storage of what they call an energy transference, there are different methods. That is costly, which method is the best way to go, they aren't exactly equivalent, some say if you generate enough renewables, you could make up for it. Some groups are no -- now changing their tune on the use of nuclear energy, because it doesn't emit greenhouse gases. Therefore, it is better than -- for the climate than other forms of energy. Not all groups feel that way. Here's Dave mogul and with friends of the Earth. One of the benefits is that it's a low carbon energy source, it's hugely expensive. It's very dirty, it produces nuclear waste that we don't have any idea how to deal with. Obviously it can lead to tremendous disasters like Chernobyl. As long as we have nuclear power, we have a nuclear proliferation in the terrorism problem. Ivan Penn, what is the significance of California not having any nuclear power plants? Again, you have a generation source, neutral power essentially is a sophisticated way of boiling water, what it does do, it generates a lot of electrons. Now, you've got to figure out how to balance out the electric grid with what are, into minted or variable resources in solar, wind. There are renewable sources such as geothermal, that can be used 24/7. They are also expensive. You've got to figure out how do we power the lives Californians at the least cost. That's a difficult equation, because in the short-term, you may have to use more fossil fuels, natural gas in particular is less carbon intensive than cold and obviously not as beneficial as nuclear. How this plays out is a matter of, where you are willing to put your money, how much you're willing to put in and how much you're willing to sacrifice, such as with the fossil fuel of natural gas. I've been speaking with Ivan Penn, energy reporter with the LA times. Thank you so much.

A utility company and environmental groups have reached an agreement that will close California's last nuclear power plant, ending the state's nuclear power era.

The state's largest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric Co., and the groups said Tuesday that the Diablo Canyon plant in San Luis Obispo County will close by 2025. The accord would resolve disputes about the plant that helped fuel the anti-nuclear movement nationally.


The 30-year-old plant supplies 9 percent of California's annual power. The agreement will replace it with solar power and other forms of renewable energy.

The move ends a power source once predicted as necessary to meet the growing energy needs of the nation's most populous state.

Diablo Canyon became the state's last nuclear plant after the 2013 closure of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, north of San Diego. San Onofre went offline in January 2012 when premature tube wear in the station's steam generators caused a small radiation leak.