Over the Hill

Here’s who should pay to shut down Diablo Canyon — and it’s not you and me

In my opinion PG&E stockholders should pay all the cost of shutting down their Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. Ratepayers like me shouldn’t have to pay a penny. The PG&E stockholders own that nuclear business. They should pay. We ratepayers are just PG&E’s customers.

I have visited Diablo Canyon from time to time as a news reporter. I first visited it in 1968 when nothing was there but a hole in the ground. It was an archaeological dig to find anything historic before it would be forever covered over by the huge, double-domed, nuclear, electrical generating plant.

I visited it again in 1978 and 1981 when the partially constructed nuclear plant was invaded and blockaded by opponents of nuclear power. Almost 500 of them succeeded in getting arrested in 1978, and about 1,900 were arrested in 1981.

But the protesters failed to prevent the plant’s completion. Its Unit One reactor went on line in 1985 and Unit Two in 1986. They’ve both been running ever since except for short halts for maintenance or refueling. But then in June of 2016, PG&E announced plans to close Diablo Canyon for good in 2025.

The closure was not motivated by protests, but by profits. Natural gas, wind and solar energy can now generate electricity more cheaply than nuclear energy can. That’s bad for Diablo Canyon. It can’t compete. So PG&E is going to shut it down, and that’s bad for this county’s economy.

Diablo Canyon doesn’t just generate electricity; its payroll and other spending have also generated about $1 billion per year in the local economy. Losing that will shock the local economy. So PG&E agreed to pay $85 million to replace some of the lost taxes and to help new economic development.

PG&E in turn is planning on getting that $85 million from us ratepayers. It would be added to our monthly bills. But a judge for the State Public Utilities Commission has recommended against allowing that. The final decision on it will be made by the commission. I hope it agrees with the judge. I do.

Reports I’ve read say paying the $85 million would only increase our individual monthly PG&E bills a little: Maybe between $0.99 and $2.41. Paying that won’t hurt me much, but it’s the principle of thing. I’m just a ratepayer, a customer. I’m not a stockholder. I’m not a part owner of PG&E.

The PG&E management or its board of directors decided many years ago to build Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. They never consulted me. I’m a mere ratepayer. Now they want to close it down even though it’s not worn out.

That isn’t my responsibility. I didn’t get to vote on building Diablo Canyon. I can’t even quit buying PG&E electricity. They have a monopoly here.

So please, PG&E, do the right thing this time. Don’t raise my electric bill to bail out your investment that’s become unprofitable.

Phil Dirkx’s column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Paso Robles for more than five decades, and his column appears here every other week. Reach Dirkx at 238-2372 or phild2008@sbcglobal.net.