Newsom Brings Hope to California’s Last Nuclear Plant, Diablo Canyon

PG&E Corp.’s Diablo Canyon plant. in California. (Joe Johnston / San Luis Obispo Tribune / Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

San Luis Obispo Tribune | Tribune News Service | beautiful pictures

California Governor Gavin Newsom is open to the idea of ​​keeping the last nuclear power plant operating in the state of Diablo Canyon, past its scheduled date of closure in 2025, but not indefinitely.

In a conversation with the LA Times editorial board on Thursday, Newsom said the state could pursue federal funding. Biden Administration Available in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to continue opening uneconomical nuclear power plants.

“Require by May 19 to submit an application, or you will miss the opportunity to draw down any federal funds if you want to prolong the life of that tree.” Newsom to the editorial board of the LA Times. “We would be remiss not to put that on the table as an option.”

The power plant, located in San Luis Obispo County and operated by utility company PG&E, expected to be discontinued first August 2025.

While Newsom opened up to the idea of ​​keeping Diablo Canyon open in conversation with the LA Times, his office emphasized his desire to close the plant eventually.

“Over the long term, the Governor continues to support the closure of Diablo Canyon as we transition to clean energy while ensuring the reliability of the energy grid,” said Erin Mellon, a spokesperson for the Newsom office. know in a statement to CNBC.

Newsom’s primary concern is keeping the power grid running for Californians. And he has reason to worry. The California Independent System operator “hopes that California can have more demand than supply during the time of extreme events that California has experienced over the past two summers,” Mellon told CNBC.

Whether or not Diablo Canyon applies for federal funding depends on PG&EMellon said.

PG&E says its priority is clean and reliable energy for California.

“The people of PG&E are proud of the role Diablo Canyon Power Plant plays in our state,” PG&E spokeswoman Suzanne Hosn told CNBC. “We are always open to considering all options to ensure continued supply of clean, safe and reliable energy to our customers.”

To qualify for any of the $6 billion in funding, a nuclear reactor must demonstrate it is “in danger of decommissioning due to economic factors,” according to a. procedural documents issued by the Department of Energy in February. PG&E is a public company and most recent quarterly filing showed the company was profitable, but it didn’t break the finance for the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant.

California politics, regulatory hurdles in the way

The outage debate has continued as the state experienced several blackouts in August 2020 during a heatwave that strained the power grid.

Despite Newsom’s recent comments, it’s unlikely Diablo Canyon will get a second chance, according to David Victora professor at the University of California San Diego.

“I’ve long been in favor of expanding Diablo Canyon,” Victor told CNBC. “I continue to think it’s extremely difficult politically in California.”

Rich Powell, Executive Director of Clean Energy Policy Organization ClearPath, said Diablo Canyon’s fate depends on local California politics. “The fate of Diablo Canyon is a matter of state policy, not a matter of federal money.”

It will also require some pretty quick changes to the legal records. Victor said: “PG&E would have to apply to renew the license and they did nothing.

Nuclear plants must have an operating license issued by the country’s top regulatory body, Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). In 2018, PG&E withdrew an application it had filed with the NRC to renew the factory license for another 20 years, Scott Burnell, a spokesman for the NRC, told CNBC.

To renew the application at Diablo, the NRC will need to see an updated environmental report, which includes a review of the water-cooling system for the nuclear reactor, Burnell said. “That takes time to develop,” says Burnell.

Keeping Diablo Canyon open will not help Newsom benefit from the people he needs to be able to rely on if he has more political ambitions.

“One of the many challenges for the governor is that the majority of the left in American politics will be very opposed to renewing Diablo’s license,” Victor said. “And those are the people the governor needs to convince to support if he wants to get the nomination for president.”

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