NRC promises vigilance at Diablo Canyon despite closure plans


Officials with the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Wednesday repeatedly assured the public that the commission will not lessen its oversight of Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant now that it is scheduled to close down in 2025.

“From the NRC’s standpoint, it really does not change what we are doing,” said Ryan Lantz, the NRC’s deputy director for reactor safety. “We are not reducing any of our resources.”

The NRC held a meeting in San Luis Obispo on Wednesday to review Diablo Canyon’s safety performance in 2015 and early 2016. Lantz said the plant was safely operated and all of its color-coded safety ratings were green, which is the highest rating.

The meeting came just a day after PG&E announced that it will not seek license renewal for Diablo Canyon and its two reactors will close down in 2024 and 2025.

Lantz said his agency has received a letter from PG&E asking that its license renewal application be suspended. The utility will formally ask for the license to be withdrawn after the plan to close the plant is approved by the California Public Utilities Commission.

About 50 people attended the meeting Wednesday, and several of them urged the NRC to stay vigilant in spite of the plans to close the plant in nine years.

“It is important for the NRC to hold PG&E’s feet to the fire,” said Linda Seeley of San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace.

San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Adam Hill, whose district includes Diablo Canyon, said the county has been preparing for years for the eventual shutdown of Diablo Canyon. The county has been promoting economic development to offset the jobs that will be lost when the plant closes. The plant employs about 1,500 people with an average annual salary of $157,000.

“We will not just persevere, we will prevail,” Hill said.

Opinion at the meeting was mixed at the news of Diablo Canyon’s closure. Several people were wearing green T-shirts representing the pro-nuclear power group Californians for Green Nuclear Power.

Group member Gene Nelson lamented the plant’s closure, saying it will lead to increased greenhouse gas emissions and more global warming.

“I wonder when, or if, environmental justice enters into PG&E’s economic decision-making,” he said.

Others said they were relieved the plant was shutting down.

“Mothers for Peace argued against PG&E’s application for license renewal for years and is pleased that PG&E plans to drop its plan to run this outdated plant for an additional 20 years,” said Jane Swanson of San Luis Obispo.

PG&E officials said they were pleased with the NRC’s safety assessment.

“The NRC’s assessment places Diablo Canyon among the higher-performing plants in the U.S. nuclear industry,” PG&E spokesman Blair Jones said. “This reflects the hard work and dedication of our talented employees and our commitment to meeting PG&E’s and the NRC’s high performance standards.”