The Push to Eradicate Nuclear Energy in California

Curtis Robinson
June 12, 2018

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2018


Fig. 1: The San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant in 2007, before its closure. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

There has been a growing opposition to nuclear energy for decades in the United States. California specifically is a state that has been a main advocate for moving away from nuclear energy. There are multiple groups that have fought energy companies within California to push for the closure of nuclear power plants in California. [1] These groups got their wish at the beginning of 2018 with the closure of the final nuclear power plant still operating in California.

Final Reactor Closures

In 2013, Edison International announced that two nuclear reactors at the San Onofre site would be permanently closed. These reactors were closed due to steam leaks that revealed cracks in the steam generator system. One of the units was forced to close due to the discovery of an 82 gallon a day steam leak. [2] The image seen in Fig. 1 displays the nuclear power plant before its redesign that ultimately led to its closure. Although the damages to the reactors left Edison no choice but to shut down, the closure was rejoiced by opposition of nuclear power. [2] Fast forward five years to January 2018 and you would see the closure of the final nuclear reactor in California. This reactor was located in Diablo Canyon in San Luis Obispo County. The recent approval to close the last operating nuclear power plant in California was seen as a huge success for those that opposed the use of nuclear power. There has been an ongoing effort for a new future for energy in California. Commissioner Liane M. Randolph of the California Public Utilities Commission stated that the approval "moves California away from the era of nuclear power and toward the era of zero-carbon renewable energy." [2]


Since the 1960's, California has been slowly moving toward becoming a state that uses little to no nuclear power to generate energy within the state. These closures of the last operating plants has further advanced this process and potentially opened up the opportunity to move toward and utilize the cheaper and less volatile renewables and natural gases. These closures will not come without consequence as the switch to almost no nuclear energy cannot be immediate. In the time that it took to close all operating plants in California, it will be interesting to see the time that it takes for California to efficiently produce energy through natural gases and renewables.

© Curtin Robinson. 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] "Timeline of San Onofre Plant's Operations," San Diego Union Tribune, 7 Jun 13.

[2] S. Mufson, "San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant to Shut Down," Washington Post, 7 Jun 13.