California legislators smooth closure path for state's last nuclear plant
- California’s Assembly on Monday night approved legislation related to the closure of the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant.
- SB 1090, which is now headed to the governor’s desk for final approval, includes language supporting a commitment to not increase greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as a result of the planned closure of the 2,250 MW plant in 2025.
- The bill also includes funding for a $350 million employee retention fund, as well as an $85 million payment to San Luis Obispo County, other cities in the area and a local school district, as a way to make up for the loss of the plant's property taxes.
The bill, which was supported by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), represents a collaboration between the utility and environmental groups, particularly the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
It could also serve as "a model for transitions going forward, not just for nuclear plants but for retiring coal plants," Peter Miller, director of the western region climate and clean energy program at the NRDC, told Utility Dive. He said the Navajo Generating Station in Arizona, which is facing closure, might be an interesting opportunity for similar measures.
"The [California] bill includes the original three key legs we went to the Public Utilities Commission with," Miller said, referring to workers, communities and the environment.
The NRDC, along with labor groups and PG&E, had originally approached the PUC, but the commission balked at funding the labor and community provisions and asked for legislative direction.
One of the main issues was the PUC’s reluctance to commit to not increasing GHG emissions after Diablo Canyon’s closure. "We urged them to make a down payment on zero carbon resources," Miller said. "If we are going to replace Diablo Canyon" with zero GHG resources, "we need to start now," he said.
The legislation addresses that concern by requiring entities responsible for system planning to submit plans that will avoid a spike in emission. If that does not happen Diablo’s capacity could be replaced by ramping up the excess gas-fired capacity in the state, said Miller, who added that is what happened when the San Onofre nuclear plant in Southern California closed.
The legislation also restored a worker retention plan that the PUC cut in half and provides support for affected communities that was not included in the PUC’s decision, Miller said.
A worker retention program is important, Miller said, because it could be unsafe to operate a nuclear plant with less than a full complement of employees. Facing the closure of the Diablo plant, many employees are likely to look for new jobs and leave the plant, Miller said.
The PUC made a poor decision, but "this legislation sent a signal," Miller said.
This article has been updated to reflect that SB 1090 is not a decommissioning bill and Diablo Canyon's closure was announced prior to the bill passing.
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