The NRC has kowtowed to political pressure to keep PG&E’s Diablo Canyon open

Advocates at the nonprofit consumer group, Public Watchdogs say that today’s disastrous decision by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to keep the antiquated Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant open flies in the face of the NRC’s own Principles of Good Regulation.

The NRC has broken the public’s trust by betraying its own values and ‘Principles of Good Regulation’” said Public Watchdogs’ Director of Development, Nina Babiarz.

The core of the NRC’s public safety and security mission has been gutted by this irresponsible act of exemption instead of doing their job of regulating.  The NRC  has sacrificed its values in exchange for political expediency”, says Babiarz.

In 2016, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) engaged local advocates as well as California’s Governor, Legislature, unions, Energy Commission, and California Public Utilities Commission, all agreed that Diablo Canyon’s Units One and Two, would cease operation in 2024 and 2025.

The only way PG&E was eligible to request an extension of its license was with the passage of Senate Bill 846.  SB 846 committed every single ratepayer in California to pay off a $1.42 Billion “forgivable loan” per the direction of Governor Newsom.

According to Babiarz, “Senate Bill 846 was a deal cut in the middle of the night at 1:30AM when their constituents were sleeping. As a result, SB 846 reversed the 2018 California Public Utility Commission’s decision to approve termination of PG&E’s License Renewal Application. And by doing so, it dictated that no public hearings will be held.”

In October of 2022, PG&E dusted off and resubmitted its 2009 application to extend Diablo’s life.  However, on January 24, 2023, the NRC rejected PG&E’s request to review the license renewal.

Here are a few of the reasons why:

  1. PG&E missed the filing deadline.  Under Federal law, nuclear power plants must submit a license renewal application five years before the license expires. PG&E missed this critical deadline.
  2. Lower safety standards.  The NRC suspended PG&E’s License Renewal Application on January 11, 2018.  PG&E, knowing the plants were scheduled to close in 2024, and 2025, stopped long-term maintenance.
  3. PG&E attempted to revive an outdated application and was rejected.

“… the NRC staff has determined that resuming this review would not be consistent with our regulations or the Principles of Good Regulation.”  In fact, PG&E asked the NRC to suspend its regulatory review of Diablo Canyon in 2016. Two years later, the NRC terminated its review of Diablo Canyon because PG&E requested its application to be formally withdrawn.

  1. PG&E never completed the necessary safety and environmental reviews.

The NRC began the application process, but when PG&E voluntarily withdrew its application, the important safety and environmental reviews were left incomplete.

  1.   PG&E neglected to inform the NRC with annual updates for more than 5-years.
    According to the NRC, “Resuming the review of the withdrawn application would also be inconsistent with the Efficiency Principle of good regulation.”

According to Babiarz, the NRC’s egregious practice of exempting nuclear power plants from basic safety regulations is a “lame excuse for not regulating. The NRC is not doing the job the public is paying for.  It is no longer the NRC, it is the NEC: The Nuclear Exemption Commission.”

Finally, PG&E is a convicted felon: The NRC recent exemptions were issued in order for PG&E to be eligible for $1.1 Billion that the Department of Energy has recently set aside for nuclear energy.  We must remember that PG&E is a convicted felon with more than 84 manslaughter convictions, plus two probation violations on record.

To arrange interviews with Public Watchdogs’ Nina Babiarz, please call Charles Langley at
(858) 752-4600, or email Langley @


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