Diablo Canyon Chief to Retire

Written by Estero Bay News

December 16, 2021

The Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant will soon have a new chief, after Pacific Gas & Electric’s top guy announced his retirement.

James “Jim” Welsch, PG&E’s Senior Vice President, Generation and Chief Nuclear Officer (CNO), is set to retire Dec. 31, after 37 years of service.

“Jim,” Adam Wright, PG&E executive vice president, operations and chief operating officer said, “has done an outstanding job leading our nuclear and power generation operations, elevating our Diablo Canyon Power Plant to a best-in-class nuclear facility. We’re going to miss his contributions and are grateful for his service to our coworkers and hometowns. I am confident in the continued safe, reliable and affordable operation of PG&E’s generation assets because of the team and depth of leadership we have.”

Paula Gerfen, currently the company’s Site Vice President for Diablo Canyon Power Plant and a 30-year veteran of the nuclear industry, has been named the Senior Vice President and Chief Nuclear Officer. “Gerfen will serve as PG&E’s lead contact with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations,” the company said.

Welsch joined PG&E in 1984 and held various leadership roles at Diablo Canyon prior to his current position. He has been responsible for the utility’s electricity generation assets, the company said, overseeing more than 2,000 employees “committed to the safe, reliable and affordable operation of the company’s nuclear, natural gas, hydroelectric and renewable generation resources.”

He was also overseeing the company’s power plant decommissioning process, a multi-billion dollar undertaking that’s expected to take many years. He’s got an impressive resume.

A veteran of the U.S. Navy’s Nuclear Submarine Service, Welsch holds a Senior Reactor Operator License. He is a graduate of the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations’ Senior Nuclear Executive Seminar and the Hudson Institute of Coaching Certification Program. Welsch holds a B.S. in Nuclear Technology from Regents College in New York.

Gerfen started at Diablo Canyon in 1991 as a Digital Engineer and has been moving up the ladder since. She earned a Senior Reactor Operator License in 2007, and is a graduate of the INPO Senior Nuclear Plant Manager course, as well as the Nuclear Operational Risk Management course at MIT. 

Prior to joining PG&E, Gerfen served in the U.S. Air Force and earned a Computer Science Bachelor’s Degree from Cal Poly, SLO.

Adam Peck will become the new Site Vice President for Diablo Canyon Power Plant and will oversee all plant departments and functions, including operations, maintenance, engineering, security and radiation protection. 

Peck too is a Navy veteran having served as an officer on a nuclear submarine before he joined PG&E in 2009. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Engineering from the Naval Academy and a Masters of Organizational Leadership from Gonzaga University.

PG&E has remained steadfast with its decision to close Diablo Canyon when the operating licenses for the two reactors expire in 2004 and 2005. This despite recent news stories and reports wherein scientists, academics and even the Federal Energy Secretary have urged reconsideration of the closure of what is California’s largest power plant at 2,500 megawatts and the last operating nuclear plant in the state.

Some have suggested that closing Diablo Canyon down would mean California won’t be able to meet its ambitious climate change goals.

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