Following debate between some supervisors, extension passes 3-2

SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY — The fate of the Diablo Canyon Power Plant (DCPP) has again shifted after San Luis Obispo County Supervisors approved to extend its operation up to 20 years. The decision was made at the Tuesday, March 26, meeting with a 3-2 vote, Supervisors Jimmy Paulding and Bruce Gibson dissenting.

In 2016, PG&E partnered with labor and environmental organizations on a joint proposal agreement to retire Diablo Canyon Power Plant at the end of its Nuclear Regulatory Commission operating licenses. However, when Senate Bill (SB) 846 was signed into law in September 2022, it opened a pathway for Diablo to remain open. The bill allows PG&E to take all necessary actions to extend operations of Unit 1 until October 2029 and Unit 2 until October 2030 and provides a $1.4 billion loan to do it.

During the Feb. 27 meeting, supervisors directed staff to bring back a resolution to support the continued operation of the plant for 20 years.  


During the March 26 meeting, supervisors heard from divided members of the public either opposing the continued operation of Diablo or in favor of it. Supervisor Dawn Ortiz-Legg read the newest resolution to extend the plant’s operation 20 years, and also expressed her support for it. 

“I didn’t say it, the Biden administration said it, ‘It is clean energy,’” she said.

Ortiz-Legg, who has an extensive career history in energy, including solar, acknowledged that as a “young and impressionable” girl, she marched against nuclear energy. But now she understands that the energy source is not only needed, but is green.

She added, “The same people who say that fact matters and science matters want to ignore it when it’s convenient.”

Ortiz-Legg was met with backlash from Supervisor Bruce Gibson who was opposed to extending the plant’s operations right now.

Gibson referenced a letter from State Senator John Laird, who opposed the extension at this time due to the following outlined in the letter to supervisors: 

I list these items, because many of them are in different stages of process, and have not been completed. For example,

  • The safety analysis will not be completed until the embrittlement of Unit 1 can be tested, which will not be done until 2025, with the results available no earlier that 2026;
  •  While the loan has been approved at the federal level, it does not reach the level expected to cover all costs of plant extension, and the risk to the taxpayers and ratepayers must still be protected, especially at a time when PG&E rates are going through the roof across California;
  • PG&E’s application to the California Coastal Commission for a Consistency Certification (under the Coastal Zone Management Act) has not been completed, and the conditions of the consistency determination, and of a coastal development permit, have not been developed nor implemented;
  • The federal government has issued three leases for offshore wind in the Morro Bay Wind Energy Area since SB 846 was enacted, and the process of involving different stakeholders and attempting to resolve differences has only just begun;
  • The once-through-cooling fee issues have not been resolved; and
  • The process for reviewing options for the Diablo Canyon Lands is underway but is at the early stages.

In short, Gibson said he would approve the plant’s operation through 2025 but has safety and financial concerns for the plant to operate anything past that at this time.

Ortiz-Legg argued that PG&E’s application to the Nuclear Commission requires a 20-year request. 

In order for Diablo to qualify for the extension under SB 846, they had to meet the following milestones:

  • In November 2023, PG&E submitted its license renewal application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The application was accepted by the NRC on Dec. 19, 2023.
  • In December 2023, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) issued a decision conditionally approving extended operations of the DCPP until Oct. 31, 2029, for Unit 1 and Oct. 31, 2030, for Unit 2.
  • In January 2024, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced its final decision to award PG&E $1.1 billion as part of the DOE Civil Nuclear Credit Program. The funding under this program is to support the continued operation of nuclear power plants which were scheduled to be decommissioned.

“We are in a renaissance folks,” said Ortiz-Legg, regarding the resurgence of nuclear energy in the country.

Supervisors John Peschong and Debbie Arnold both supported Ortiz-Legg in the decision to keep Diablo open and operating.

Peschong followed Ortiz-Legg, calling her passionate and saying “Extending it. It makes sense.”

Ortiz-Legg made the motion to extend Diablo’s operation up to 20 years, allowing for flexibility for the next generation. The motion was approved with a 3-2 vote, Paulding and Gibson dissenting.