Letters to the Editor

Let’s act now to preserve Diablo Canyon lands

Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant’s current licenses expire in 2024 and 2025.
Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant’s current licenses expire in 2024 and 2025. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

If you live anywhere on the Central Coast, you’re aware by now that on June 21, PG&E announced it will not seek relicensing of Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant when current licenses expire in 2024 and 2025.

It’s my opinion this is a direct result of years of failed energy policies in the state of California.

Just like that, 10 percent of the state’s energy supply will be gone. Coupled with the closure of San Onofre, California will be nuclear-free, having lost 20 percent of its electricity supply — not counting additional lost energy from coal and other sources by way of state mandates.

To build the equivalent of a 2,200-megawatt nuclear plant, a solar farm would require more than 20,000 acres, and a wind farm more than 100,000 acres. By contrast, Diablo Canyon is able to produce that much power and more on a footprint of 545 acres. It’s irresponsible to think we can efficiently replace safe, low-cost, greenhouse gas-free, reliable base load sources of power and operation at DCPP with renewables of wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and hydroelectricity.

For the past year, we’ve been hearing from 3rd District Supervisor Adam Hill the promise of desalinated water from Diablo Canyon for the South County. He’s claimed numerous times that a PG&E executive said “yes” to him alone after a dinner in his home. Coincidentally, PG&E (a donor to Hill’s re-election campaign) announced its intention to close just days after the primary election when Hill was not able to pull off a re-election victory. Was this desalination subterfuge aimed at gaining favor with the electorate, knowing all along it would never come to fruition?

This deception would go on to cost taxpayers $300,000 approved in August 2015 and $900,000 appropriated in March of 2016, with some of that appropriation already spent.

Hill’s reaction to Diablo Canyon’s closing is: “We cannot afford to be apathetic or behave like a broken-hearted lover bemoaning codependency.” (“How do we prepare for a post-Diablo economy?” Tribune, June 28.)

It’s offensive and insulting to the thousands of men and women, who for decades have staked their livelihoods on the safe production of nuclear energy in our backyard. He goes on to say a “terrific university” and being a “highly desirable place to live” will replace the loss of impact from this decision. His first solution is to become a “renewable energy hub.” Renewables are undependable and will not replace the head-of-household jobs lost at DCPP and the $1 billion impact on our community. He also contends we should stop holding Sacramento accountable for their malfeasance because we just have to live with it. Sounds no better than the broken narrative streaming from Sacramento.

Why, Hill, as the only supervisor in the state who has a nuclear power plant in his district, didn’t you boldly support the relicensing of the plant as a matter of public policy? Why didn’t you ask your colleagues to include supportive policies in the county’s annual Legislative Platform?

Usually, when a city or county is faced with closure or relocation of one of its primary employers, it pulls out all stops. The local elected officials normally lead a massive campaign of advocacy. Why not you, Hill? Your job creation platform obviously lacks a plank for maintaining current head-of-household jobs.

Now that we know Diablo Canyon will close in 2024-25, it’s time to act and revisit the Diablo Resources Advisory Measure (DREAM Initiative, Measure A) passed by 75 percent of county voters in March 2000. The advisory measure recognizes the Diablo Canyon lands, including Wild Cherry Canyon, as a precious coastal resource that should be maintained by adopting policies promoting habitat preservation, sustainable agricultural activities and recreation, consistent with public safety and property rights. The time has come to honor that commitment and take action.

First, our county leaders must request that neither PG&E nor any subsidiary convey fee title to any development interest that is inconsistent with Measure A. Second, request PG&E to commit to long-term protection and preservation of Diablo Canyon lands as one of many components in the larger effort to mitigate the closure, including cooperative efforts to pursue funding strategies to implement the elements of the plan. Third, participate in a county led strategic planning process to develop a plan for the best and highest use of Diablo Canyon lands consistent with Measure A once the plant has closed.

Finally, encourage the California Public Utilities Commission to provide PG&E with any needed regulatory authorization for the timely conveyance of fee title to a local or state agency, or conservancy, that can best help implement the goals of Measure A-2000.

As a lifelong resident of District 3, I want to thank the thousands of Diablo Canyon employees for decades of safe, clean, reliable, low-cost energy production without incident.

Dan Carpenter is vice mayor of San Luis Obispo and a candidate for District 3 supervisor.