Letters to the Editor

Viewpoint: Early renewal of Diablo is necessary

For decades, Diablo Canyon Power Plant has called San Luis Obispo County home. Throughout these years, we have developed close working relationships with many of our neighbors while safely generating clean, reliable and affordable power.

We are an important economic engine in the area through the thousands we employ and the millions of local purchases we make from regional businesses. In fact, Diablo Canyon has a total economic impact of more than $640 million annually for San Luis Obispo County and another $100 million for the state of California. Through our partnerships with community groups, we help increase the quality of life for our families, friends and neighbors across the local area.

We feel it is prudent to know at least 10 years before our operating licenses expire (in 2024 and 2025, respectively) if the electricity generated by Diablo Canyon will need to be replaced. In order to participate in the rigorous local, state and federal regulatory processes and have a final decision within that time frame, we must start now.

That is why, after conducting a License Renewal Feasibility Study, Pacific Gas and  Electric Co. concluded that it is in the best interest of our customers, county residents and the state’s environmental and economic future to extend Diablo Canyon’s operating licenses for another 20 years, through 2044 and 2045, for units one and two.

This process, which includes an extensive safety and environmental review by the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, will take several years. During this period, we support an open, transparent process that seeks the public’s input and keeps everyone informed throughout the license renewal process.

On March 3, Nuclear Regulatory Commission representatives were in town to discuss the environmental impacts of Diablo Canyon. We appreciate all of the interest shown by local residents who attended the meeting and the support demonstrated by several community members, including our employees.

By using Diablo Canyon to generate 18,000 gigawatt-hours of electricity per year, we avoid adding more than 7 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions that would likely otherwise be produced by conventional, fossil fuel-burning plants. Without Diablo Canyon in the state’s energy portfolio, air pollution and power costs will increase and reliability will suffer. Furthermore, it will be virtually impossible for California to meet its goals of dramatically reducing emissions levels by 2020 and meeting the energy demands of our customers.

Some people have questions about issues that do not fall within the parameters of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s license renewal review process, like the new shoreline fault zone. PG&E’s team of in-house geoscientists, working with the United States Geological Survey, identified the fault in November 2008 as part of the company’s long-term seismic program. We immediately began an in-depth study to collect data on the new fault, and while the study will be completed by the end of 2010, our experts have determined that the structural integrity of the plant could withstand potential impacts caused by the fault. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission independently reviews our ongoing seismic studies, including the recent data on the shoreline fault, and agrees that it is safe to continue operating Diablo Canyon.

That said, more data can and should be gathered. In fact, PG&E recently asked the California Public Utilities Commission to approve funding for the company to conduct a 3-D seismic survey of the region. This data will contribute to our industry-leading seismic safety programs.

As one of Diablo Canyon’s 1,200 proud employees and a 13-year resident of Avila Beach, I am confident that our commitment to safety and the site’s strong performance record over the past 25 years demonstrates that Diablo Canyon will continue to provide safe, clean, affordable and reliable power to our customers for many years to come.

To learn more, please visit www.DiabloCanyonPGE.com.

Thank you for your continued support. The men and women of Diablo Canyon are committed to earning it each and every day.

James R. Becker is PG&E’s site vice president at Diablo Canyon Power Plant. He is responsible for all operations, maintenance and engineering at the nuclear facility and for managing the periodic refueling of the plant’s two units.