Discontinuation of Nuclear Power in California

Nicole Nishimura
March 20, 2018

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2018


Fig. 1: Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant in San Luis Obispo County, California (Source: Wikimedia Commons) -

The United States is the number one consumer of nuclear energy in the world consuming 32.4% of the nuclear energy produced in the world but some states are beginning to phase out the popular method of energy production. [1] Reasons for the discontinuation vary, but many are economically motivated since renewable energy is becoming much cheaper, and of course is better for the environment. [2]

Opposition and Shut Down

Nuclear power plants have existed in California since the 1950s, but faced opposition pretty quickly. Since the mid 1970s, there has been a ban on the opening of new nuclear power plants, due to concern about how to safely dispose of spent fuel. [3] As of 2018, a satisfactory method of disposal still had not been established, leading to the decision to shut down the final operating nuclear power plant in California, Diablo Canyon (Fig. 1). The nuclear plant is scheduled to be completely shut down in 2025. [4]

Future Energy Plans

The shut down of Diablo Canyon does not come without concerns. This power plant alone produces 9% of California's energy, and does not produce any greenhouse gases. [5] Environmentalists and supporters of nuclear energy, while in opposition on the use of nuclear energy, have both expressed concern over how the state will make up for the loss of this energy plant. [5] In the past, closure of nuclear power plants has lead to an increase in the use of natural gas, which increases greenhouse gas emissions. [2] PG&E, a major gas and power company in Northern and Central California, has stated that it will increase energy efficiency and their use of renewable energy following the shut down. [6] This seems likely, since California is creating a new policy that will require energy companies to use 60% renewable energy by 2030. [7] Many people still have concerns that a movement to using too much renewable energy could be dangerous since wind and solar power are not continuous. It will be interesting to see how California and the rest of the country resolve these issues as nuclear energy continues to be phased out.

© Nicole Nishimura. The author warrants that the work is the author's own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] "BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2017," British Petroleum, June 2017.

[2] D, Cardwell, Diane, "California's Last Nuclear Power Plant Sets Closing Date," Boston Globe, 21 Jun 16.

[3] California Code Public Resources Code, Division 15, Chaper 6, Section 25524.1 [CA Pub Res § 25524.1 (2016)].

[4] R. Nikolewski, "Regulators Vote to Shut Down Diablo Canyon, California's Last Nuclear Power Plant," Los Angeles Times, 11 Jan 18.

[5] R. Nikolewski, "Nuclear Power Receives Its Death Sentence in California: Regulators Vote to Shut Down Diablo Canyon," San Diego Union Tribune, 11 Jan 18.

[6] E. Adamczyk, "California's Last Nuclear Power Plant to Close by 2025," United Press International, 12 Jan 18.

[7] A. C. Mulkern, "How States Will Hit 100 Percent Clean Energy," Scientific American, 5 Sep 17.