California’s last nuclear power plant will close in less than 10 years under an accord unveiled this week, ending three decades of safety debates that helped fuel the national anti-nuclear power movement.
The state’s largest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric Co., and environmental groups reached an agreement to replace production at Diablo Canyon nuclear plant by 2025 with solar power and other energy sources that do not produce climate-changing greenhouse gases.
The facility, which sits along a bluff on California’s central coast, supplies 9 percent of the state’s power.
Environmentalists had pressed the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) increasingly to close Diablo given its proximity to seismic faults in the earthquake-prone state. One fault runs 650 yards from the plant’s reactors.
Worries of earthquakes fracturing the facility have been a dominant theme since PG&E first announced plans for Diablo Canyon in the 1960s. The project helped consolidate opposition to nuclear power within the country’s then-fledgling environmental movement.
“This is an historic agreement,” said Erich Pica, president of the Friends of the Earth environmental group, founded in 1969 in opposition to the Diablo Canyon plans.
PG&E has long said the plant is safe from the largest potential earthquake in the region. But new research has led to more questions about nearby faults, their shaking potential and how the company evaluates them.
Under the deal, the utility agreed not to seek re-licensing for the plant.
“The important thing is that we ultimately got to a shared point of view about the most appropriate and responsible path forward with respect to Diablo Canyon, and how best to support the state’s energy vision,” said the utility’s leader, Tony Early.
The move ends a power source once predicted to be necessary to meet the growing energy needs of the nation’s most populous state.
California already has banned construction of new nuclear plants until the federal government finds a permanent disposal site for their radioactive waste.