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SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY, CALIF. – A federal appeals court denied a petition by three anti-nuclear, environmental groups seeking to close the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant near Avila Beach.

San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace, Friends of the Earth and the Environmental Working Group filed a lawsuit against the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2023. The NRC had granted an exemption to the deadline for a federal license application to Pacific Gas and Electric, which operates Diablo Canyon.

According to a U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling released Monday, the anti-nuclear groups argued the NRC was not within its rights to grant an exemption to PG&E for missing the federal application deadline. They pointed to regulatory concerns and risks to both people and the environment surrounding the nuclear power plant.

However, in an opinion authored by Judge Consuelo M. Callahan, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel found the NRC was justified in its decision to grant an exemption:

“We deny the petition, finding NRC’s grant of the Exemption and issuance of the categorical exclusion complied with the APA. NRC was not required to provide a hearing or meet other procedural requirements before issuing the Exemption Decision because the Exemption was not a licensing proceeding. NRC adequately explained why California’s changing energy needs constitute a special circumstance, and why the record supported its findings of no undue risk to the public health and safety. Despite Petitioners’ arguments to the contrary, there are no limitations on the types of exemptions that may be encompassed by a NEPA categorical exclusion, and NRC did not act arbitrarily and capriciously in its determination that this Exemption met the eligibility criteria in its categorical exclusion regulation. The petition is DENIED.”

Diablo Canyon was set to shut down both of its reactors by 2025, but Governor Gavin Newsom and other state leaders are in favor of keeping it open until at least 2030, arguing the plant is crucial to the stability of the California’s energy supply. PG&E has since worked to gain approval from both state and federal regulators to keep the plant operating through at least 2030.

Anti-nuclear and environmental groups have long sought its closure. Another lawsuit filed earlier this year challenges the U.S. Energy Department’s decision to award more than $1 billion dollars to help keep Diablo Canyon running.

According to PG&E, Diablo Canyon accounts for 9% of the California’s electricity supply and employs 1,500 people. 

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