Newsom mulls keeping California’s last nuclear power plant open amid green energy woes

Gov. Gavin Newsom said he might delay the planned closure of California’s last nuclear plant.

Facing possible electricity shortages, the Democratic governor on Friday raised the possibility that the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant might continue operating beyond a planned closing by 2025.

First speaking to the Los Angeles Times editorial board Thursday, Newsom floated the idea that plant owner Pacific Gas & Electric could seek a share of $6 billion in federal funding the Biden administration established earlier last month to support the continue operation of nuclear reactors at risk of closing.

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The administration has touted US nuclear reactors as “the nation’s largest source of clean energy.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom discusses the effect of the drought on power generation after touring the Edward Hyatt Power Plant at the Oroville Dam, in Oroville, Calif., Tuesday, April 19, 2022. ((AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File) / Associated Press)

Newsom, who has no direct authority over the operating license for Diablo Canyon, said the state would still move forward and submit an application to the US Department of Energy by May 19 to avoid missing the opportunity to draw down on federal funds to possibly keep the plant open longer.

“We would be remiss not to put that on the table as an option,” the governor said.

“The Governor is in support of keeping all options on the table to ensure we have a reliable (electricity) grid,” his spokeswoman, Erin Mellon, later clarified. “This includes considering an extension to Diablo Canyon, which continues to be an important resource as we transition to clean energy.”

CALIFORNIA, POWER PLANT

This Nov. 3, 2008 file photo, shows one of Pacific Gas and Electric’s Diablo Canyon Power Plant’s nuclear reactors in Avila Beach, Calif. ((AP Photo/Michael A. Mariant, File) / Associated Press)

Newsom’s office stressed that “in the long term,” the governor continues to support the closure of Diablo Canyon as the state moves to renewable energy.

In 2016, PG&E agreed to shut down the plant, which sits on a seaside bluff above the Pacific midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, by the year 2025 rather than take on expensive environmental and earthquake safety upgrades demanded by and union workers.

The company’s decision six years ago had recognized “California’s new energy policies will significantly reduce the need for Diablo Canyon’s electricity output,” but Newsom’s recent suggestion that California does not yet have reliable enough power sources for its some 40 million population as the state has has been gradually shifting to solar, wind and other renewables.

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It was not immediately clear if PG&E would consider reversing course to seek federal dollars to remain open beyond the scheduled closing.

“We are always open to considering all options to ensure continued safe, reliable, and clean energy delivery to our customers,” PG&E spokeswoman Suzanne Hosn told the Associated Press in an email.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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