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Diablo Canyon is closing. SLO County’s new emergency services manager is here to help

What will happen to Diablo Canyon after it closes?

Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant will be shut down in 2025 after its operating licenses expire.
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Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant will be shut down in 2025 after its operating licenses expire.

There’s a new man in charge of keeping San Luis Obispo County safe in disasters and large-scale emergencies.

Joseph “Joe” Guzzardi is the county’s new emergency services manager, effective Jan. 7, 2019 He replaces Ron Alsop, who recently retired from the position.

Guzzardi’s job might look a bit different than his predecessor’s.

That’s because the primary focus of the county Emergency Services Office has been the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.

The office has a budget of $1.9 million that is currently funded by PG&E, and one of the manager’s primary roles is to prepare the county for nuclear power plant exercises and drills.

The county has done a tremendous amount of emergency preparedness work around Diablo Canyon — performing drills and writing and updating a 175-emergency response plan. It also maintains operating procedures for more than 50 agencies including the San Luis Coastal Unified School District, the Port San Luis Harbor District and the city of Pismo Beach.

All that training and planning has been used as kind of a launchpad for preparing for other emergencies the county is more likely to face, such as wildfires and earthquakes.

Part of Guzzardi’s job will be to help transition the office away from that and spearhead county efforts related to the power plant’s eventual closure before 2025, according to assistant county administrator Guy Savage.

“Today, most of the funding for emergency response comes from Diablo,” Savage said. “We develop plans primarily based on the power plant and leverage those plans to prepare for tsunamis, earthquakes and wildfires. We know in 2025, we’re not going to have that at our core. It’s that kind of transition.”

Emergency preparedness will continue to be important after the power plant closes, as spent fuel rods will continue to stay on site for an unknown amount of time.

PG&E is expected to continue to provide funding for emergency preparedness, but for how long is unknown.

“In a settlement agreement, it’s our expectation we will get continued funding until it gets to dry cast storage,” Savage said. “There will still be similar response, but not the level we have today with the active generation plant”

Guzzardi comes to the county from the Santa Clara Fire District, where he’s served as emergency manager since 2015. Before that, he was emergency manager for the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Services.

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