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Local leaders and advocates of green nuclear energy react to Diablo Canyon closure impact report

Posted at 11:38 PM, Jun 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-27 03:47:53-04

The economic impact of closing the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant may be smaller than expected— that’s according to a report released Wednesday from UC Berkeley researchers.

In an old report, PG&E estimated the immediate economic impact of the Diablo Canyon Closure to be $1 billion.

That new report says the number is closer to $800 million.

A new study from UC Berkeley says there is some economic relief as SLO County prepares to close the last-standing nuclear power plant in California.

“There is still going to be some pain,” said Adam Hill, District 3 San Luis Obispo County Supervisor. “We still have a lot of work to do, but there are some things in our favor.”

The report, mandated by Senate Bill 968, says there are some potential positive impacts like how the $85 million in mitigation funds the county is set to receive from PG&E could be used.

PG&E plans to close the plant by 2025, but Hill says the utility’s bankruptcy might pose more challenges like delays.

“The report assumes that decommissioning will happen, it will be 10 years of pretty good economic activity to help fill the immediate gap. We hope that’s true,” said Hill. “That’s definitely best case scenario, but with a bankruptcy and some other things it’s certainly less clear.”

In an email, Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham says the county still needs to prepare for what’s to come.

“Diablo Canyon’s closure will result in a loss of tax revenue, economic activity, and more than a thousand head-of-household jobs. While SB 1090 will help soften the blow of the plant’s closure, there is still so much more to do to prepare our region for a new economic reality,” said Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham.

There are still some other unknowns like what will happen to the current employees.

“These are all head of household jobs, many of them pay over 100,000 dollars year and if you look around here, you will discover those jobs are extremely scarce,” said Gene Nelson, a legal assistant for Californian’s For Green Nuclear Power Inc.

He says nearly 3,000 people will likely look for work elsewhere taking their money with them.

“They are going to have to leave to stay in the industry and most of them have spent huge amounts of time learning how to operate a piece of complex machinery,” said Nelson.

It also is unclear what type of energy will be used to replace nuclear power.

“When the closure agreement was announced, the premise that the power generated out at the diablo canyon was going to be replaced by renewable power,” said Hill. “That’s seeming less and less likely. There isn’t a power source with storage capacity that can run 24/7 the way the plant can.”
Hill says the county is also teaming up with Cal Poly students to work on a pre and post-closure economy model.

“We need to think regionally and develop a plan to ensure that we are creating employment opportunities here on the Central Coast,” said Assemblyman Cunningham. “This report further shows that our efforts to transform our economy in the wake of Diablo’s closure are absolutely critical. I look forward to hearing from the researchers who wrote the report.”

Still many discussions to be had on this topic and another big one happening Friday.

Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham is scheduled to appear.

The public forum will take place at 1 p.m. in the SLO County Board of Supervisors chambers.