PG&E to pay $5.9 million for dumping of Diablo Canyon cooling water

June 24, 2021


PG&E reached a settlement with the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board last month, requiring the utility to pay $5.9 million for allegedly failing to comply with regulations pertaining to how it discharges cooling water from Diablo Canyon Power Plant.

The nuclear power plant takes in water from the Pacific Ocean to condense steam after it passes through two electrical generators in a process called “once-through cooling.” Water is then released back into the ocean, and the cycle repeats. Environmentalists have argued the discharge of water into the ocean harms marine life.

Regulators alleged releases of once-through cooling water from Diablo Canyon into the Pacific Ocean constituted violations of PG&E’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit. PG&E agreed to the settlement following a Central Coast water board investigation of alleged permit violations associated with the thermal component of the plant’s discharge since it first began releasing once-through cooling water in 1985.

The $5.9 million PG&E agreed to pay will be used for water quality projects that benefit the region, according to the water board.

Additionally, PG&E has been making annual payments to mitigate the impacts of its discharges and is expected to pay about $38 million in total for the plant operations between 2015 and 2025. The mitigation payments are used to support marine protected areas on the Central Coast.

PG&E will shut down Diablo Canyon in Aug. 2025.

“We take protecting water quality and marine habitat very seriously,” Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board Chair Dr. Jean-Pierre Wolff said in a statement. “This settlement demonstrates our commitment to safeguard and restore our region’s waters, and the board intends to apply the settlement funds toward high priority water quality projects in alignment with statewide priorities associated with environmental justice, public health, climate change, water supply resiliency or watershed functions that support healthy ecosystems.”


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Funny, I grew up down South and one of the best places to fish was offshore from the San Onofre Nuclear power plant….


When I was a kid we fished the “outlet” at the MB power plant. The warm cooling water used to attract great striped bass runs. Also, it was sometimes a great place to paddle out when surfing the rock.


Oh my goodness! Was the water that was “dumped” back into the Pacific Ocean 3 degrees too warm? What a crock of crap!


Ya, we call it summer water, when it a bit warmer.

Jorge Estrada

Sadly the rate payers are subjected to this selective enforcement and their empowered Fiefdom that levee these fines to cover their operating expenses. Boy would I love to contact the PG & E lawyer.


The sad thing here is that PG&E willfully violated the terms of the permit that they had agreed to, no doubt so they could save money and increase profits for their shareholders. Trust me, they did not do it so they could reduce your power bill.

In any case, it is unlikely that rate payers will end up being subject to this fine, because rates are regulated by the PUC and they typically do not allow utilities to jack up rates due to fines caused by the utility’s non-compliance. I wouldn’t be surprised if PG&E had budgeted for this fine as a risk of their planned malfeasance being caught. $5.9 million is a drop in the bucket for them.

Jorge Estrada

I’d rather have the warm salt water water pools accessible to seniors with ache and pains for the sea life mitigation. Every now and then one of us may get swallowed and then we can call it bioremediation….


I’d like to see what exactly was in violation of the permit. I worked at the plant for 31 years and one thing we always checked for was the rise in temperature from intake to discharge. The limit was 22 degrees F and I never saw that exceeded during my time working there and my job covered NPDES requirements. Obviously something was done wrong but the delta T seems unlikely based on my experience.


Environmentalists will never try this ignorant crap to the wind and solar energy cult, regardless of the high level of pollution created.


Ya, but we can keep an eye on them, those greenies are sneaky.


Yes, that would be ignorant crap indeed, because wind and solar energy cause a minuscule fraction of the pollution compared to the nuclear fuel from a reactor, or, say, the air pollution emitted by a coal power plant. Tell us, exactly how many degrees will the proposed Morro Bay wind farm raise the surrounding water temperature by, compared to Diablo?

Jorge Estrada

The precession force created by the sum of all the wind generators affixed to the earth may affect the speed of rotation therefore affecting the length of one day to some fraction of a second. This may have a greater affect on global warming, like a slow turning chicken on the rotisserie.


No, that’s not how it works. Lol if that was true airplanes taking off would be changing the rotation depending on direction of take off.

Kids, this is why we don’t want to cut the education budget again and again.