Last-Minute Bill to Extend Operation of California’s Diablo Nuclear Plant is Misguided

Statement by Juliet Christian-Smith, Western States Regional Director at the Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Aug 30, 2022

SACRAMENTO (August 30, 2022)—The Union of Concerned Scientists opposes a bill (SB 846) that would extend the operation of Diablo Canyon, California’s last remaining nuclear power plant that was scheduled to fully retire in 2025.

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Below is a statement by Juliet Christian-Smith:

“This last-minute legislation would give new life to an aging nuclear power plant that is badly in need of seismic upgrades and other repairs to ensure safe operation. By waiving important environmental reviews and not designating funds to address seismic safety, the bill ignores the plant’s environmental impacts and vulnerability to earthquakes. Safety cannot take a back seat in our quest to keep the lights on and reduce global warming emissions.

“The risks of extending the operation of Diablo Canyon are significant, and an earthquake-induced accident could, by our estimate, cause more than 10,000 cancer deaths and over $100 billion in damages.

“The bill calls for a $1.4 billion loan to Pacific Gas & Electric on top of authorizing increased energy prices. These costs will be expensive for California taxpayers and ratepayers, particularly if Diablo Canyon is found ineligible for federal subsidies aimed at helping utilities keep nuclear power plants open.

“Introducing a final version of this bill 76 hours before the end of the legislative session without the benefit of adequate public review or a robust analysis of alternatives is misguided. The Union of Concerned Scientists remains committed to replacing the power generated by Diablo with renewable energy, energy storage, and other cost-effective alternatives that are a safer choice for all Californians.”