Power Sources

Calif. PUC OKs retirement of Diablo nuclear plant

The California Public Utilities Commission on Jan. 11 unanimously signed off on a request by Pacific Gas & Electric that it be allowed to retire the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant by 2025.

PG&E intends to retire the plant’s two units when their licenses from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission expire in November 2024 and August 2025. The two units at Diablo Canyon together produce approximately 2,300 net megawatts of power.

The PUC said that in making its decision, it evaluated the schedule for closure of the power plant, PG&E’s request for replacement procurement, and requests for cost recovery, some of which were supported by various parties in settlement agreements.

The CPUC authorized PG&E to recover in rates $241.2 million in costs associated with retiring the plant: $211.3 million to retain PG&E employees until the power plant is scheduled to close; $11.3 million for retraining of workers; and $18.6 million for Diablo Canyon license renewal expenses incurred by PG&E.

The CPUC denied PG&E’s request for $85 million for a Community Impact Mitigation Program (CIMP) in the absence of express legislative authorization, although PG&E may choose to use shareholder funds to support the CIMP, the commission said.

The commission further determined that consideration of any electricity procurement that may be needed to replace Diablo Canyon should be addressed in the CPUC’s Integrated Resources Procurement proceeding, “which is actively considering the optimal mix of resources needed to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from the electric sector while simultaneously maintaining reliability and minimizing costs to customers,” the PUC said in a news release related to the decision.

PG&E unveiled proposal in 2016

In June 2016, PG&E said it planned to retire Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in California under a joint proposal with labor and environmental groups.

PG&E said that the joint proposal would increase investment in energy efficiency, renewables and storage beyond current state mandates, while phasing out PG&E's production of nuclear power in California by 2025.

Diablo Canyon is the sole existing nuclear power plant operating in California after the San Onofre nuclear power plant was shut down in 2013.

The parties to the Diablo Canyon joint proposal are PG&E, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245, Coalition of California Utility Employees, Friends of the Earth, Natural Resources Defense Council, Environment California and Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility.

PG&E responds to decision

In a statement issued following the Jan. 11 PUC decision, PG&E said the Diablo Canyon joint proposal “represented a significant milestone in the planning to meet California's ambitious clean energy vision. We appreciate the CPUC's thoughtful consideration of this complex issue and its approval of certain elements.”

The utility said that while it is “disappointed that they did not approve the full employee retention program, as well as the community impact mitigation and energy efficiency programs, we are appreciative that the CPUC took the positive step to increase the amount of funding for employee retention beyond their original proposed decision.”

PG&E said the joint proposal “represents an array of interests from many parties who joined together to promote the best path forward for our state and PG&E's customers.”

Since the full proposal was not approved, “in line with our agreement, PG&E will be meeting to confer with our labor, community and environmental group partners in the days ahead about the decision, our next steps and the path forward,” the utility said in the statement.

The full PG&E statement, which offers additional details about the joint proposal, is available here.