Californian support grows for Diablo Canyon: poll

20 May 2022

There is strong local and statewide support for extending the operations of California's only operating nuclear power plant - and the state's largest source of carbon-free generation - a newly released poll has found.

Diablo Canyon (Image: US Nuclear Regulatory Commission/PG&E)

The study, commissioned by Carbon Free California, with input and support from progressive think tank and polling firm Data for Progress, and carried out by FM3 Research, found that 58% of voters across the state support continued operation of the plant, with 32% opposing it. In San Luis Obispo County - where the plant is situated - 74% of voters expressed support for continued operation of Diablo Canyon, with 56% of respondents "strongly" supporting it.

"We found that Californians broadly support the continued use of Diablo Canyon Power Plant to generate electricity," said Dave Metz, partner and president at FM3 Research. "Closer to the plant, in San Luis Obispo County specifically, we saw that support intensify."

The poll provided detailed information about the issue, testing arguments on both sides. Overall, Californians have become more comfortable with nuclear energy over time, the report notes, with "solid majorities" saying they approve of the use of nuclear power to generate electricity and that its benefits outweigh its risks.

Some 40% of those polled said that what they have heard about nuclear power recently has made them view it more rather than less favourably - almost twice as many as those whose opinion has become more unfavourable. Support for extending the use of Diablo Canyon rose to 60% after voters heard pros and cons about the plant's continued operation.

"California voters overwhelmingly approve of carbon-free energy - and support further use of nuclear energy," Danielle Deiseroth, lead climate strategist at Data for Progress, said. "It's clear that these voters support the Diablo Canyon Power Plant remaining open to reduce electricity costs, enhance grid reliability, and meet our emissions reduction goals."

Pacific Gas and Electric Company in August 2016 announced plans to retire Diablo Canyon's two pressurised water reactors at the end of their current 40-year operating licences, which expire in November 2024 for unit 1 and August 2025 for unit 2. They are the only remaining nuclear capacity in California following the premature retirement in 2013 of units 2 and 3 at Southern California Edison's San Onofre plant.

Earlier this month, California Governor Gavin Newsom said his administration would look into using the federal government's recently launched Civil Nuclear Credit Program to keep Diablo Canyon in operation beyond its scheduled 2025 closure date, telling the Los Angeles Times it would be "remiss" to miss out on the federal funding opportunity.

The survey of 620 voters statewide - plus an "oversample" of San Luis Obispo County voters which yielded 217 total interviews - was carried out between 11 and 19 January.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News