Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant must close as scheduled by 2025
For decades, San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace (SLOMFP) has worked on the front lines for increased safety and protections at Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant. SLOMFP now urges the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to resist attempts by California Governor Gavin Newsom to use federal bailout funds to scuttle a historic 2016 settlement agreement between Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E), Labor, environmental, and community organizations to close the Diablo Canyon nuclear reactors by 2025. The full text of SLOMFP’s letter can be found below.2022.06.28-Corrected-22.06.27-SLOMFP-Letter-to-DOE-Secy-Granholm
In a shocking reversal from his previous support of the Diablo Canyon retirement, Governor Newsom is now attempting to renege on that agreement and extend the operating life of Diablo Canyon with federal money through the Civil Nuclear Credit Program. Governor Newsom is set on securing some of the $6 billion in taxpayer funding to keep the plant operating past 2025. Because Diablo does not qualify for this bailout, the Governor is pressuring the DOE to change the rules.
On June 27, under a constrained 7-day time period which the DOE provided for public comment (a clear violation of the Administrative Procedure Act), SLOMFP submitted a powerful letter directly to Secretary Granholm and Assistant Secretary Huff objecting to proposed changes in DOE’s guidance for implementing the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (“IIJA”) that would undermine the plain requirements and underlying purposes of the Act. SLOMFP urged DOE “not to allow the CNC Program to be weakened or mis-directed to serve the unreasonable and unsupported demands of a single supplicant in ways that will undercut rather than further cost-effective climate impact mitigation.”
Specifically, the IIJA requires that a nuclear reactor participating in the CNC Program must compete in a competitive electricity market and receive 50 percent or more of total revenue from sources that are exposed to electricity market competition. Further, a facility must prove that it is operating at a loss. Diablo operates in a regulated market and does not operate at a loss.
It must be emphasized that although Diablo Canyon bids its output into the competitive wholesale market administered by the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), the revenues it receives are netted against its authorized operating costs and any negative balance is recovered through a dedicated charge paid by all PG&E customers.
DOE’s proposed change to the criteria for a power plant to qualify creates subjective testing by the DOE: To wit: “A nuclear reactor will receive a material amount of its total revenue from sources that are exposed to electricity market competition.” What qualifies as a “material amount” is not specified and is subject to varying interpretations.
The fact is, California does not need Diablo to ensure sufficient energy to prevent power outages nor to meet climate goals. In its letter, SLOMFP underscores this point: “Diablo Canyon is closing because PG&E determined in 2016 that doing so would enable it to meet California’s renewable energy standard (RES) and emissions standards more rapidly and cost-effectively.”
- Declining retail sales due to increasing impacts from “the expansion of energy efficiency, increase in distributed generation especially privately-owned solar resources and the growth of alternative energy supplies, such as Community Choice Aggregation (CCAs).” “Downward pressure on bundled electric sales reduces the need for electricity from Diablo Canyon.”
- “A decreasing need for baseload generation” due to California’s increasing reliance on renewables, then required to reach at least 50% by 2030.
- “[T]he challenge of renewable resource overgeneration caused by excess renewable energy supply in certain times of the day.”
- “The cost to operate Diablo Canyon may significantly increase after 2025 due to state and federal requirements.”
SLOMFP also noted that the “transition” cost to keep Diablo operating past 2025 alone – seismic-retrofitting, cooling system upgrades, and other deferred maintenance upgrades – would consume such a large share of the program’s resources that it would deplete the CNC program of funds that could potentially be applied in the phase 2 solicitation.
SLOMFP objects to the California Governor’s current attempt to undo the 2025 closure date for Diablo Canyon. Closure of the two reactors by the planned 2025 date is necessary to end the unacceptable accident risk posed by the operation of the nuclear plant above a web of multiple major earthquake faults. Diablo Canyon’s reactors now contain 1,000 times as much radioactivity as the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, and its spent fuel pools contain ten times more than that. Closure of the reactors by 2025 will also end Diablo Canyon’s daily damage to marine life caused by Diablo’s (now unlawful) once-through-cooling system.
Amending the existing Guidance for the Civil Nuclear Credit Program specifically for Diablo Canyon is inconsistent with the IIJA and is not justified. Governor Newsom’s request for amendments is intended to revoke a closure settlement that was based on non-economic reasons.
MFP urges Secretary Granholm and Assistant Secretary Huff to reject Governor Newsom’s improper and unwarranted plea for amendments.
Full text of SLOMFP comments can be read below.