Poll finds strong local and statewide support for extending operations of California’s Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant
Newly released polling shows strong local support for extending the operations of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, California’s largest source of carbon free energy generation. Statewide support for extending operations of the plant was also strong, according to the poll conducted by FM3 Research. Gov. Gavin Newsom recently announced his intent to explore options to continue operations at the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant. The poll was commissioned by Carbon Free California with input and support from Data for Progress.
Diablo Canyon Power Plant is a nuclear plant located in San Luis Obispo, operated by PG&E. In January 2018, the California Public Utilities Commission approved a multiparty settlement to shut down fully and permanently the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant when the current federal license period for the plant’s second unit expires in 2025. Diablo Canyon currently provides 8% of California’s in-state electricity production and 15% of its carbon-free electricity production.
A November 2021 assessment of Diablo Canyon by a team from Stanford and MIT concluded that delaying the retirement of Diablo Canyon to 2035 would reduce California power sector carbon emissions by more than 10% from 2017 levels and reduce reliance on gas; save $2.6 billion in power system costs, and bolster system reliability to mitigate brownouts. If operated to 2045 and beyond, Diablo Canyon could save up to $21 billion in power system costs and spare 90,000 acres of land from use for energy production, while meeting coastal protection requirements.
Further, a hydrogen plant connected to Diablo Canyon could produce clean hydrogen to meet growing demand for zero-carbon fuels, at a cost up to 50% less than hydrogen produced from solar and wind power, with a much smaller land footprint.
We found that Californians broadly support the continued use of Diablo Canyon Power Plant to generate electricity. Closer to the plant, in San Luis Obispo County specifically, we saw that support intensify.—Dave Metz, partner and president at FM3 Research
Statewide, 58% of voters support continued operation of California’s last existing nuclear power plant, while 32% oppose. In San Luis Obispo County, 74% of voters indicated support for continued operation of Diablo Canyon, with 56% of respondents “strongly” supporting.
There was strong agreement among voters on the most important benefits of continuing to operate Diablo Canyon, including reducing the likelihood of blackouts (77%), saving more than $2 billion on electric bills (76%), and providing a reliable source of electricity as the state transitions to wind and solar power (75%).
California voters overwhelmingly approve of carbon-free energy—and support further use of nuclear energy. 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.—Danielle Deiseroth, lead climate strategist at Data for Progress
The poll provided detailed information about the issue, testing arguments on both sides. Support for extending the use of Diablo Canyon rose to 60% after voters heard pros and cons about the plant’s continued operation.
Overall, the poll found that California voters have become more comfortable with nuclear energy over time, with solid majorities saying they approve of the use of nuclear power to generate electricity and that its benefits outweigh its risks.
Carbon Free California commissioned the poll of 620 registered voters statewide January 11-19, 2022, plus an oversample of San Luis Obispo County voters yielding 217 total interviews.