California state legislators started September on a positive note – voting to extend the life of their only operating nuclear power station, Diablo Canyon, by up to five years. They authorized a $1.4 billion government loan to keep Diablo Canyon operating.
The decision marks a reversal of California’s 2016 decision to retire the nuclear power plant station by 2025 – Unit 1 in 2024 and Unit 2 in 2025.
Governor Gavin Newsom backed this action and cited the need for shoring-up the state’s electric reliability and preventing rolling blackouts. Diablo Canyon alone, provides about 9% of the state’s electricity and its continued operation will contribute considerably to their zero-emission goals – Diablo Canyon alone provides nearly a fifth of the state’s carbon-free power.
This vote allows Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) to begin a two-pronged effort to prevent the closure of the station by 2025, but uncertainties remain, and it does not guarantee its continued operation. PG&E will need to obtain permission from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to continue making electricity beyond 2025. Other actions are also required by PG&E with FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) and NERC (North American Electric Reliability Corporation). They will also seek a share of the $6 billion, that the Biden administration set aside to rescue nuclear plants at risk of closing – this was another action taken by Governor Newsome in asking, in a letter to the Secretary of Energy, for an amendment to some of the requirements needed to qualify for this federal money and an extension of the time-limit for submittal of their application.
Although some environmentalist groups are not happy about the legislation, 37 scientists, entrepreneurs, and academics sent a letter to Energy Secretary Granholm expressing support for an amendment to the DOE (Department of Energy) proposal. “Considering our climate crisis, failing to pass this amendment could lead to the plant’s closure. That would not only be irresponsible, but the consequences could be catastrophic.”
In order to get the votes needed for passage of this legislation, also included was the approval of $54 billion for climate change spending, with restrictions on oil and gas drilling, and a mandate that the state stop adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by 2045.