Environmentalists who have undertaken a legal effort to prevent California’s largest utility from prolonging the lifespan of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant were recently handed a loss when their case was dismissed by a state judge.
The radical environmentalist Friends of the Earth had filed the lawsuit in the California Superior Court back in April. The group aims to thwart a state-backed plan to keep the nuclear power plant operational for an additional five years.
In 2016, Friends of the Earth had agreed with Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), the plant’s operator, to close down the state’s nuclear facility by 2025.
However, Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom and the state legislature created an avenue for PG&E to potentially extend the plant’s operations last year. Friends of the Earth contended that the 2016 agreement to shut down the plant was not “fully extinguished,” and extending the operating licenses would violate this binding contract.
Judge Ethan P. Schulman dismissed the case in an 18-page ruling, siding with PG&E. He stated that the environmental group was attempting to “impermissibly hinder or interfere” with state regulation of the plant, which is located approximately halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Schulman noted that if the court sided with Friends of the Earth, it would create a conflict with state regulators and would “enmesh the court in complex questions of energy, economic and environmental policy,” which are better addressed by agencies like the California Public Utilities Commission.
The environmental group hasn’t given up, however, and has indicated plans to appeal the decision. “We continue to strongly believe in our case and are considering appealing the unwarranted dismissal,” said Hallie Templeton, Legal Director for Friends of the Earth. “One thing is clear: the fight to shutter Diablo Canyon is not over, and this is not our only iron in the fire.”
Friends of the Earth is also pursuing another legal battle in the Ninth Circuit against the Nuclear Regulatory Commission concerning the extension of Diablo Canyon’s operations.
PG&E, for its part, released a statement saying that their actions are in line with state energy policies. Suzanne Hosn, a spokeswoman for the company, stated, “and our actions toward relicensing Diablo Canyon Power Plant are consistent with the direction of the state.”
PG&E plans to seek an extension for the operating licenses of the plant’s reactors, Unit 1 and Unit 2, whose licenses expire next year and in 2025 respectively. They aim to submit their application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission by year’s end to extend the plant’s life for up to two more decades.
Modern nuclear power plants, contrary to myths left over from Hollywood dramatization about “meltdowns” in the 1970s, now have extremely high safety standards and studies have shown it to be one of the safest forms of energy, according to the NEI.
California environmentalists have helped shutter a number of power plants, even as the state’s energy grid has fallen into an unsustainable condition, particularly with the state’s push for “zero carbon” by 2050 and to force consumers to buy all-electric vehicles.
These modern nuclear power plants that have been closed include: Humboldt Bay Nuclear Power Plant (1983); San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (2013); and Rancho Seco Nuclear Power Plant (1989). Obsolete nuclear power plants closed down include Santa Susana Sodium Reactor Experiment (1964) and Vallecitos Nuclear Power Plant (1967).
Nuclear energy is America’s largest source of carbon-free energy.