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Environmental Group Sues to Prevent PGE from Extending Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Operations

— April 11, 2023

The lawsuit seeks to prevent Pacific Gas & Electric from continuing nuclear power operations at Diablo Canyon beyond 2025.

An environmental advocacy organization has filed a lawsuit seeking to prevent Pacific Gas & Electric, or PGE, from extending its federal operating licenses for California’s last remaining nuclear power plant.

According to The Associated Press, the complaint was filed in San Francisco Superior Court by Friends of the Earth.

In their lawsuit, Friends of the Earth has asked the court to order Pacific Gas & Electric to abide by the terms of a 2016 agreement.

The agreement, adds The Associated Press, would have obliged PGE to close the two-domed Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant by 2025.

However, the utility company was afforded an opportunity to extend its operations when California Gov. Gavin Newsom approved an act that would lengthen the nuclear reactor’s lifespan. Pacific Gas & Electric now plans to re-apply for permits that could see the Diablo Canyon plant remain open for another 20 years.

Hallie Templeton, legal director for Friends of the Earth, said that Pacific Gas & Electric “has been acting as if our contract has disappeared.”

“Contracts simply don’t vanish into thin air,” Templeton said in a statement. “Yet ever since California passed legislation supporting Diablo Canyon’s extension, PG&E has been acting as if our contract has disappeared.”

Templeton, notes The Tribune, was apparently referring to Senate Bill 846.

Gavel on copy of lawsuit; image by Wirestock, via
Gavel on copy of lawsuit; image by Wirestock, via

Senate Bill 846, passed by the California legislature and enacted by Gov. Newsom in September of 2022, allocates an estimated $1.4 billion to Pacific Gas & Electric, with the amount intended to extend Diablo Canyon’s operational lifespan.

California, writes The Associated Press, has had a long and troubled history with nuclear power.

While California is the birthplace of the American environmental movement, it has struggled to negotiate the travails of nuclear power: although nuclear reactors do not produce carbon emissions, they can leave behind highly radioactive waste.

This waste, even when buried underground, can remain a potent contaminant for hundreds of years.

The Newsom administration has long championed cleaner, safer energy—surprising environmentalists when it announced that Diablo Canyon could be allowed to operate for years longer than planned.

Pacific Gas & Electric says that it has yet to receive a copy of the lawsuit.

However, a spokesperson for the company said that PGE abides by state law—and that state law has explicitly permitted the Diablo Canyon facility to remain operational, in spite of any prior agreement or accord.

“PG&E is required to follow the policies of the state,” a Pacific Gas & Electric spokesperson said in a statement. “PG&E’s actions toward relicensing Diablo Canyon Power Plant are consistent with direction of the State of California in Senate Bill 846.”

”We have performed and continue to do all maintenance and make all necessary investments to ensure the continued safe and reliable operations of the plant as required by regulations and consistent with our operating licenses,” the company said in a statement to The Tribune. “Should the plant be relicensed, we will continue to maintain the plant to the very highest standards, and will ensure we meet all additional regulations and requirements to support extended operations.”


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