Diablo Canyon nuclear closing will dramatically increase California’s carbon emissions

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We don’t like to pick on California, but sometimes it’s just too easy.  Take the upcoming closure of Diablo Canyon nuclear, for example.   California has set an aggressive target of reducing its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 40% lower than what they were in 1990 by 2030.   Yet state law requires the retirement of Diablo Canyon by 2025. In one knockout punch, California will blast a hole in its aggressive GHG reduction targets. Why? Because Diablo Canyon provides 14% of the Golden State’s carbon-free power produced in-state.  If California wants affordable and reliable carbon-free power, nuclear power and Diablo Canyon must remain part of the equation.

Diablo Canyon accounts for 8% of California’s total in-state electricity generation.  Renewable energy from large-scale hydropower, wind, solar, and other renewables accounts for an additional 49%.  And, in what might be a surprise to many, natural gas still comprises 43% of the state’s domestic power production.   A more startling figure is that one facility — Diablo Canyon — accounts for just over 14% of California’s carbon-free power emissions.   Why? California is the fourth-largest wind generation state in the U.S.   Yet, all the wind farms in-state only account for 12% of its at-home-produced carbon-free energy.   

These alarming statistics might just be why “the Union of Concerned Scientists found that, without further action, cumulative global warming and air pollution emissions will be significantly higher over the next decade due to the retirement and replacement of Diablo Canyon.” 

Since our inception more than a decade ago, Energy Fairness has been anything but steadfast in our unwavering support of maintaining a robust civilian nuclear infrastructure to meet greenhouse gas emission targets.   

We’ve written in support and testified before the Georgia Public Service Commission on the importance of the expansion of Plant Vogtle.  We chastised New York lawmakers about the closure of Indian Point, which provided 80% of the New York City Metropolitan Area’s carbon-free power.  And most recently, we cheered efforts by the Illinois legislature to prevent the closure of Byron and Dresden facilities and the $80 billion burden that Exelon’s ratepayers would need to shoulder to transition to renewable and storage alternatives.

We’ve also highlighted the national security ramifications of maintaining a robust domestic nuclear infrastructure for our relationships with developing nations that lack the domestic know-how to produce affordable and reliable carbon-free electricity from advanced nuclear technologies.   Energy Fairness contributor Dr. David Gattie noted during his testimony before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee that “this [meeting carbon reduction targets] is global climate change; it’s not [just] U.S. climate change.” 

Domestically or internationally, legacy and advanced nuclear power stations will play a vital role in meeting carbon emissions targets.   As we race to meet carbon-emission reductions on a domestic and global level, we cannot sacrifice ratepayers’ access to affordable and reliable power.  States like California, New York, and Illinois should be embracing the role facilities like Diablo Canyon play, not abandoning them in the long-term for the sake of short-term political expediency.