Another View: Diablo Canyon isn’t part of clean energy future

The Diablo Canyon nuclear plant is licensed until 2025.
The Diablo Canyon nuclear plant is licensed until 2025. MCT file

The Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant is facing a clear operational conflict. While its licenses from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission are set to last until 2024 and 2025, its leases from the State Lands Commission expire in 2018 and 2019.

Some are urging the commission to grant an interim lease through 2025 (“Diablo Canyon is needed for clean energy,” Viewpoints, April 1). That would be sensible, but after that, the plant’s federal licenses should not be renewed.

Diablo could continue to operate for almost a decade. Most importantly, this would free up California officials and Diablo’s owner, PG&E, to focus on transitioning from nuclear to renewable energy.

California’s goal to derive half of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030 is ambitious, but important. Unfortunately, according to Greenpeace and others, operating nuclear plants actually blocks the large-scale integration of renewable energy into the electricity grid by crowding out the market.

Allowing Diablo Canyon to operate until its federal licenses expire will give California many years to plan a smooth transition from nuclear to renewables, but extending those licenses another 20 years would add a major roadblock to meeting the state’s clean energy goals.

It is also misleading to assert that we need Diablo Canyon to meet our state’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. According to a Stanford engineering professor, for the same amount of money it would cost to update the plant’s cooling towers you can build enough wind and solar projects to fully replace the power it generates.

It’s prudent for the State Lands Commission to grant the necessary lease so that state and federal timelines align. But advocating for the renewal of Diablo Canyon’s federal licenses is reckless and shortsighted.

Michael K. Dorsey of New Haven, Conn., is on the Sierra Club board of directors. He can be contacted at