Jan. 12 (UPI) -- California's only remaining nuclear power plant, the Diablo Canyon plant near San Luis Obispo, will begin closing in 2025, state regulators announced.
The California Public Utilities Commission unanimously approved the action on Thursday. The closing will likely mark the end of the state's use of nuclear power to provide electricity. California law places a ban on building more nuclear power plants until the federal government establishes a long-term policy on dealing with nuclear waste.
The closing by utility Pacific Gas and Electric Co. will likely mean a rise in monthly consumer electric bills. PG&E spokesperson Blair Jones estimated a 0.5 percent annual increase on Thursday. The power plant is San Luis Obispo County's fourth-largest employer, with 1,500 employees, and PG&E will shift payment of $241.2 million in shutdown costs to consumers, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on Thursday.
The two 1,100-megawatt reactors went online in 1985 and 1986, and produce nearly nine percent of the state's electricity, serving three million people. The reactors will be deactivated in 2025 and 2026, when their U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission operating licenses expire.
Construction on the plant began in 1973, and its opening prompted opposition from environmentalists who noted the facility was just 650 yards away from an earthquake fault line. Thirty years later, changes in the state's electricity markets, including an increase in renewable power, made the Diablo Canyon plants uneconomical to operate.
Advocates of the plant, however, have sought to keep it open. They note that California's greenhouse gas emissions have fallen every year since 2004, except for 2012, after the closure of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station near San Diego. The year 2012 was also marked by a drought, which cut hydroelectric dam output and increased emissions.
To replace the power lost by the closure of the Diablo Canyon facility, PG&E said it will increase energy efficiency and its use of renewable energy, and employ energy storage methods exceeding current state mandates.