In a historic agreement announced June 21, 2016 between environmental groups led by Friends of the Earth, labor unions and the California electric utility Pacific Gas & Electric (PGE), the Diablo Canyon nuclear generating station in San Luis Obispo will permanently shutdown in 2025 rather than seek a twenty-year license extension. By the same agreement, the power from the nuclear generator will be replaced with safe, clean, renewable energy generation, advanced electricity storage systems, energy efficiency and conservation. Diablo Canyon is the latest in a series of reactor closure announcements where the tanking economics of atomic-generated power simply don’t add up. Nuclear corporations are finding it more profitable to shutter reactors than operate them and replace them with increasingly more affordable solar and wind power. As California's last remaining operating reactor, Diablo Canyon's closure will mean that the seventh largest economy in the world will be nuclear free. At the same time, the loss of the profit motive coupled with utility reticence to invest in mounting safety and environmental issues make nuclear power even more dangerous. This prompts the call to accelerate the shutdown schedule.
The Diablo Canyon reactors were designed in the 1960s, built in the 1970s and originally only looked at the earthquake siting risks coming from the distant San Andreas fault line 45-miles away and one other “insignificant” fault line. Since then, much greater earthquake risks that threaten the reactors’ safe shutdown have emerged around the two-units location from the nearby Hosgri, San Luis Bay, Los Oso and the Shoreline fault lines that run as close as one mile away. Just such unanalyzed and unacceptable risks versus the enormity of potentially devastating consequences are being recognized in post-Fukushima Japan as reason enough to shutdown nuclear power stations and legally deny their restart as in the case for the Takahama nuclear power station. The continued operation of Diablo Canyon amid a minefield of earthquake faults until 2025 places the California region and beyond in the same peril as the earthquake-induced nuclear catastrophe proved at Fukushima, Japan.
The environmental consequences of continued operation of Diablo Canyon add more reason to move up the date for a more prompt closure. The Diablo Canyon’s antiquated once-through reactor cooling system that draws in 2.5 billion gallons of water each day and discharges it super-heated into Diablo Cove is responsible for 80% of the marine environment damage from electric power stations along the California coast.
For many more reasons, including capping the production of unmanaged high-level nuclear waste that is accumulating onsite and onto future generations, the fight must go on to shutdown Diablo Canyon sooner rather than later.