Diablo Canyon Closure to Cost $3.9 Billion

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

September 24, 2021

Pacific gas & Electric’s plan for decommissioning the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant was approved by a state agency, and perhaps not surprising, ratepayers will pay a sizable share of the multiple billions it will cost.

On Sept. 9, PG&E announced that the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved the company’s cost estimate of $3.9 billion for the decommissioning of the state’s last operating nuclear plant, which is slated to be shut down completely in 2024 and 2025.

That’s when the plant’s two nuclear reactors’ licenses are due to expire (Unit 1 in 2024 and Unit 2 in 2025), after PG&E reached a settlement agreement with environmental groups effectively ending the company’s efforts to renew its two licenses with the Federal Atomic Energy Commission.

“Diablo Canyon,” Jim Welsch, Senior Vice President, Generation and Chief Nuclear Officer said, “continues to be an important resource for California in achieving our clean energy goals. At the end of the operating licenses, we are committed to safely decommissioning Diablo Canyon in a fashion that is consistent not only with all laws and regulations, but also is respectful of the environment and reflects the input of our neighboring communities.

Today’s decision will help us achieve those goals and deliver on PG&E’s purpose of serving our planet and delivering for our hometowns.”

The CPU’s vote was part of the triennial “Nuclear Decommissioning Cost Triennial Proceeding” [NDCTP] filing designed to “evaluate the adequacy of funding for the future decommissioning,” PG&E said in the news release.

The CPUC’s decision “authorizes the collection of approximately $900 million in customer contributions to fully fund the project,” PG&E said. “As a result of this decision, customers can expect to see a monthly bill increase for a period of 8 years starting in January of 2022.

The company said that for an average residential customer, using about 500 kilowatts a month, their bills would go up 59¢ a month per year.
According to a Wikipedia page on Diablo Canyon, building the plant, which was proposed in 1968 and opened in 1984, cost $11.556 billion in 2007 dollars ($14 billion in 2019 dollars). The plant sits on a roughly 12,000-acre coastal property with the plant itself using some 750 acres.

What is to become of the property on Point Buchon, north of Avila Beach, with its oak woodlands, coastal bluffs and numerous Native American archaeological sites, is under discussion by a citizen’s oversight committee.

According to PG&E, “The $3.9 billion cost estimate is based on a comprehensive, site-specific decommissioning analysis and reflects input from interested parties and stakeholders including the Utility Reform Network, the Public Advocate’s Office of the California Public Utilities Commission, Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility, the County of San Luis Obispo, Women’s Energy Matters, and yak titʸu titʸu yak tiłhini Northern Chumash Cultural Preservation Kinship.”

Despite the plant’s apparent fate, there is a movement trying to reverse the decision to close the 2,200 megawatt plant, citing the need for the emissions-free power source, as the State focuses on fighting climate change and greenhouse gas emissions.

The State in large part prompted the move to close the plant with its energy goals and push for renewables, which PG&E determined would mean the plant could only run half the time, making its energy too costly.

Instead, the State is planning to build enough solar and wind energy plants to keep the power grid charged and meet energy demands. Diablo Canyon has some 1,200 employees and produces enough energy for 3 million people.

If readers would like to know more about the decommissioning of Diablo Canyon, see: www.pge.com/en_US/safety/how-the-system-works/diablo-canyon-power-plant/diablo-canyon-power-plant/diablo-repurposing.page.

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