Legislation to protect the environment, workers, and local communities during the closure of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant passed the California Senate with strong bipartisan support yesterday and now moves to the Assembly.
SB 1090, which was approved on a vote of 31 to 4, directs the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to fully fund the worker retention and community transition provisions in the historic 2016 agreement reached between Diablo Canyon’s operator Pacific Gas and Electric; environmental groups including NRDC and Friends of the Earth; labor organizations, and others. The $350 million employee retention program and the $85 million community impact mitigation program are needed to ensure that the plant is adequately staffed and essential emergency services are provided to the end of the license period in 2025.
SB 1090 also directs the Commission to require that the state’s electricity providers’ plans for serving customers include needed investments in zero-carbon resources in order to avoid a spike in emissions, which is what occurred when the San Onofre nuclear plant, California’s other large nuclear facility, closed earlier in this decade. The CPUC’s Diablo Canyon decision in January expressed an intent to avoid a spike in emissions when California’s last nuclear plant is fully retired in 2025, but failed to approve even a down payment on the needed investment in replacing the plant’s generation with emissions-free resources like energy efficiency, and wind and solar power.
The package of policies included in SB 1090 offers a model for the phase out of aging power plants with clean, increasingly less-expensive energy while providing a just transition for workers and communities impacted by the shutdown. NRDC has estimated that Diablo Canyon’s closing will save Californians at least $1 billion because it would cost more to refurbish the aging plant than to replace the nuclear power with non-polluting energy resources.
The Diablo Canyon nuclear plant is located on the California coast about 250 miles south of San Francisco. It began operations in 1985 and accounts for about 9 percent of California’s in-state power generation and about 20 percent of the electricity of PG&E’s territory serving 16 million people in northern and central California.