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Historic nuclear free agreement between Pacific Gas and Electric and Friends of the Earth

logo-FOEFlag-USADiablo Canyon nuclear plant to be shut down, power replaced by renewables, efficiency, storage
California, world’s sixth largest economy, going nuclear-free June 21, 2016 BERKELEY, CALIF. –

An historic agreement has been reached between Pacific Gas and Electric, Friends of the Earth, and other environmental and labor organizations to replace the Diablo Canyon nuclear reactors with greenhouse-gas-free renewable energy, efficiency and energy storage resources. Friends of the Earth says the agreement provides a clear blueprint for fighting climate change by replacing nuclear and fossil fuel energy with safe, clean, cost-competitive renewable energy. 

The agreement, announced today in California, says that PG&E will renounce plans to seek renewed operating licenses for Diablo Canyon’s two reactors — the operating licenses for which expire in 2024 and 2025 respectively. In the intervening years, the parties will seek Public Utility Commission approval of the plan which will replace power from the plant with renewable energy, efficiency and energy storage resources. Base load power resources like Diablo Canyon are becoming increasingly burdensome as renewable energy resources ramp up. Flexible generation options and demand-response are the energy systems of the future.

By setting a certain end date for the reactors, the nuclear phase out plan provides for an orderly transition. In the agreement, PG&E commits to renewable energy providing 55 percent of its total retail power sales by 2031, voluntarily exceeding the California standard of 50 percent renewables by 2030.

“This is an historic agreement,” said Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth. “It sets a date for the certain end of nuclear power in California and assures replacement with clean, safe, cost-competitive, renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy storage. It lays out an effective roadmap for a nuclear phase-out in the world’s sixth largest economy, while assuring a green energy replacement plan to make California a global leader in fighting climate change.”

A robust technical and economic report commissioned by Friends of the Earth served as a critical underpinning for the negotiations. The report, known as “Plan B,” provided a detailed analysis of how power from the Diablo Canyon reactors could be replaced with renewable, efficiency and energy storage resources which would be both less expensive and greenhouse gas free. With the report in hand, Friends of the Earth’s Damon Moglen and Dave Freeman engaged in discussions with the utility about the phase-out plan for Diablo Canyon. NRDC was quickly invited to join. Subsequently, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245, Coalition of California Utility Employees, Environment California and Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility partnered in reaching the final agreement. The detailed phase out proposal will now go to the California Public Utility Commission for consideration. Friends of the Earth (and other NGO parties to the agreement) reserve the right to continue to monitor Diablo Canyon and, should there be safety concerns, challenge continued operation.

The agreement also contains provisions for the Diablo Canyon workforce and the community of San Luis Obispo. “We are pleased that the parties considered the impact of this agreement on the plant employees and the nearby community,” said Pica. “The agreement provides funding necessary to ease the transition to a clean energy economy.”

Diablo Canyon is the nuclear plant that catalyzed the formation of Friends of the Earth in 1969. David Brower left the Sierra Club and founded Friends of the Earth over a disagreement about nuclear power and the Diablo Canyon plant specifically. The plant was the first issue on the organization’s agenda and it has been fighting the plant ever since. This agreement is not only a milestone for renewable energy, but for Friends of the Earth as an organization.

For more information, see the final, signed Joint Proposal and the Joint Letter to the State Lands Commission.


Growing list of reactor closures and looming closures

The average age of the U.S. nuclear power fleet is 35 years. That’s the equivalent of about 70 human years so it’s no surprise that a growing number of reactors are falling off the perch:

  • Dominion’s Kewaunee in Wisconsin and Entergy’s Vermont Yankee have closed for economic reasons since 2013. Both plants were licensed to keep operating into the 2030s.
  • Southern California Edison permanently shut down the last two operating reactors at the San Onofre plant in California in 2013, after steam generators replaced in a US$700 (€628m) million upgrade failed, only a couple of years after their installation.
  • In February 2013 Duke Energy announced that the Crystal River nuclear plant in Florida would be permanently shut down, following a botched attempt to repair the concrete containment dome.
  • Entergy’s FitzPatrick plant in New York will be closed in 2017, and Entergy’s Pilgrim plant in Massachusetts is slated to be closed in 2019, but could close sooner.
  • Exelon’s Oyster Creek plant in New Jersey is scheduled to be permanently shut down by December 2019.

Matt Crozat from the Nuclear Energy Institute said that “several nuclear power plants around the country are vulnerable to weak market conditions, particularly smaller facilities in competitive markets.” Marvin Fertel from the same organization said on May 19 that 15‒20 reactors in the U.S. are at risk of being shut over the next 5‒10 years due to economic challenges such as low power prices, and competition from gas and renewables. He said that small, single-unit plants are the most vulnerable.

It can now be said with certainty that new build (five reactors are under construction) will be outpaced by closures this decade in the U.S., and it’s highly likely that the pattern will repeat itself in the 2020s. BP’s recently-released ‘Energy Outlook: 2016 Edition’ projects a 13% decline in nuclear power generation in North America from 2014‒2035 (and a 29% fall in the EU).


June 22, 2016 - Posted by | business and costs, politics, USA

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