Critical hearing looms in battle over California’s last nuclear power plant

By Shannon Kelleher

Opponents of a nuclear power plant in California face a key court hearing next week, a potential turning point in a long-running battle over the fate of the state’s last nuclear power plant.

The environmental group Friends of the Earth (FOE) is set to square off against Pacific Gas & Electric Power Co. (PG&E) in an effort to keep alive the group’s legal challenge to PG&E’s continued operation of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, which is located on the coast roughly halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

FOE filed suit in April in San Francisco County Superior Court alleging that PG&E is violating an agreement it signed with the group in 2016 pledging to fully retire the plant by 2025. Now, with the support of state and federal officials, the utility is seeking approval from regulators to keep the plant running until 2045.

PG&E is asking the court to stay or dismiss the FOE lawsuit. Both sides will air their arguments on the issue Monday morning in San Francisco County Superior Court.

PG&E says the plant can “ensure the long-term availability of a valuable source of safe, clean, affordable and reliable electricity for more than three million Northern and Central Californians.”

In contrast, FOE, along with several scientists and environmental advocates, says the Diablo Canyon plant is a danger to public safety and the environment. Plant critics fear the plant’s continued operations put the state at risk of a nuclear accident, prevent the state from fully embracing a transition to clean energy, and saddle the public with an unnecessary financial burden.