The Pacific Gas and Electric Company, joined by labor and environmental interests, announced that it will close the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant by 2025 — long before the end of its useful life, and despite ongoing state power shortages.
Southern California faces potential blackouts in the midst of an ongoing heat wave, due to the lack of available backup power after a massive natural gas leak at Porter Ranch earlier this year, and the recent closure of the San Onofre nuclear plant.
Diablo Canyon is the state’s last nuclear power plant, and its closure has divided environmentalists. Some regard nuclear power as too risky, especially given the damage done by the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan in 2011, after an earthquake and tsunami disabled the reactors’ power supplies and cooling mechanisms. Like that plant, Diablo Canyon sits on the coast — in order to access large quantities of water needed for cooling — and is near earthquake fault lines as well.
Other environmentalists see nuclear power as a key component of the effort to fight climate change, since nuclear involves few greenhouse gas emissions and substitutes for traditional fossil fuel energy sources. Renewable energy is not yet able to generate large quantities of power at an affordable cost on the scale required to provide electricity, including air conditioning, to millions of consumers. Nuclear energy currently makes up 9% of the state’s supply.
Supporters of the plant are not giving up, according to Bay Area public radio station KQED, and intend to lobby state regulators to keep Diablo Canyon open. NPR reports that Pacific Gas is promising to replace the plant’s power with an “a greenhouse gas free portfolio.”