Diablo Canyon stopped for ever, California, United States

In June 2016, PG&E announced it was closing down the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, a very controversial investment since the 1960s. No electricity will be now produced from nuclear energy in California!


On June 21, 2016, PG&E announced a proposal written with labor and environmental organizations to increase investment in energy efficiency, renewables and storage, while phasing out nuclear power. Specifically, the operating licenses for Diablo Canyon Units 1 and 2 will not be renewed. These were set to expire on November 2, 2024 and August 26, 2025 respectively. Diablo Canyon has been famous in the annals of environmental struggles since the 1960s (4), when in 1966 the Sierra Club Board voted to endorse the Diablo Canyon site. They discovered later that it was  home to the largest Abalone site in California. A major campaign to reverse the astonishing endorsement of the atomic plant by the Sierrra Club was started by several board members inclusiding David Brower. All this led to the founding of Friends of the Earth. There was civil disobedience and many protests against Diablo Canyon. In 1977,  "activists staged civil disobedience at the gates of Diablo Canyon.

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Basic Data
NameDiablo Canyon stopped for ever, California, United States
CountryUnited States of America
SiteSan Luis Obispo
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Nuclear
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Nuclear power plants
Specific CommoditiesElectricity
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe Diablo Canyon nuclear facility near San Luis Obispo was the only nuclear energy plant left in California by 2016. It was approved in the late 1960s when public sentiment in California was starting to shift from embracing nuclear power to opposing it (1). PG&E made in 1977 its 5th revision to costs. Unit 1 costs were $695,000,000 with an operational date of 3/15/78. Unit 2 costs were $560,000,000 with an operational date of 10/15/78 (4). Diablo Canyon's two units had a capacity of 1,073 and 1,087 MWe, generatings almost 18,000 gigawatt-hours of power each year, powering 1.7 million homes. By itself, Diablo Canyon, operated by Pacific Gas & Electric, accounted for nearly 9 percent of California's electricity production. PG&E could have applied for a 20-year extension through the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

As required by California law, PG&E has established a trust fund created by ratepayers, through their electricity bills over the course of decades, to cover decommissioning costs. The trust fund for Diablo Canyon is nearly $2.8 billion. In PG&E's most recent submission to the California Public Utilities Commission, the utility estimated it would cost $3.779 billion to decommission Diablo Canyon. (3). The nuclear waste will be kept on site because, as in the case with all nuclear facilities in the US, companies are not liable for final disposal: it is the federal government's responsibility to ultimately find places to deposit nuclear waste. However, with the proposed depository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada scrapped, nuclear facilities keep spent fuel at their respective sites.

For nuclear's supporters, Diablo Canyon was seen as essential to deliver reliable, base-load power and an effective way to reach the state's ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. "Diablo Canyon is an absolutely necessary part of the energy mix in California," had said Eugene Grecheck, president of the American Nuclear Society. This was not to be, however. It's not just California. There are 99 nuclear reactors in the U.S. providing in 2016, 19 percent of the nation's electricity. But the majority of those 99 plants are over 30 years old.
Project Area (in hectares)300
Level of Investment (in USD)3,800,000,000 (only the cost of decomissioning)
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Potential Affected Population50,000
Start Date1966
End Date2016
Company Names or State EnterprisesPacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) from United States of America
Relevant government actorsGovernment of California

Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersAbalone Alliance

Sierra Club (after initially supporting the nuclear power plant)

Scenic Shoreline Preservation Conference (SSPC)

Friends of the Earth

The Mothers For Peace

The Natural Resources Defense Council

Environment California

Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility.
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingInternational ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Trade unions
Recreational users
Local scientists/professionals
Important role in the blockade of 1981 of Mothers for Peace and the Abalone Alliance. Support for anti-nuclear movement from Gov. Brown.
Forms of MobilizationDevelopment of a network/collective action
Public campaigns
Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Street protest/marches
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Development of alternative proposals
Official complaint letters and petitions
Strong defence of the abalone (phylum Mollusca, a group which includes clams, scallops, sea slugs, octopuses and squid) and of the scenic beauty of the site. Massive demonstrations, many arrests after civil disobedience, during the building period in the 1970s and early 1980s.
Shareholder/financial activism.
Boycotts of official procedures/non-participation in official processes
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Other Environmental impacts
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Fires, Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
OtherOnce-through cooling systems allow coastal nuclear power plants to directly take in and discharge massive amounts of sea water -- causing significant damage to marine creatures and the environment.
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Potential: Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/sense of place
OtherProduction of nuclear waste over many decades
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCriminalization of activists
Negotiated alternative solution
Project cancelled
Many arrests of activists took place at the time the two nuclear units were built
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.It took very long for the opponents of nuclear energy to achieve success in the sense of stopping the plant - however, the PG&E company closed down Diablo Canyon when it is still had a good chance of extending its licence. The proposal for shortening the plant's lifespan was negotiated with unions and environmentalists. The decommissioning will be expensive. Nuclear waste remains in situ.
Sources and Materials

(3) It'll take time — and $3.8 billion — to shut down the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, Los Angeles Times, Rob Nikolewski, 22 June 2016
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(2) Forbes, Jul 15, 2016, Closing Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant Will Cost Money And Raise Carbon Emissions, by James Conca.
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(1) Nuclear power's last chance in California? by Rob Nikolewski (San Diego Union Tribune, 4 June 2016).
[click to view]

Los Angeles Times, PG&E to close Diablo Canyon, California's last nuclear power plant, Ivan Penn and Samantha Masunaga, 21 June 2016
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Media Links

(4) The Diablo Canyon Timeline (until 1981) .This is the archival site for the Abalone Alliance.
[click to view]

(5) Timeline of the struggle on Diablo Canyon by Friends of the Earth 1958-2012
[click to view]

A QUESTION OF POWER (1986) is a moving and informative documentary history of the nuclear power controversy and the U.S. antinuclear power movement. Narrated by Peter Coyote, the film focuses on 35 years of grassroots opposition to the “peaceful atom” in California, where the antinuclear power movement was born (in 1959-64 over the proposed Bodega Bay Atomic Park), and reached its peak in 1981 with the protests over the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant.
[click to view]

Dark Circle, documentary film (Mothers for Peace, Abalone Alliance, the blockade of 1981 etc.)
[click to view]

Other Documents

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The Diablo Canyon blockade
[click to view]

Meta Information
Last update06/07/2017