California governor proposes $1.4 billion plan to keep last nuclear plant open

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As California wrestles with how to meet the state’s demand for power while also reducing its reliance on fossil fuels, Governor Gavin Newsom has proposed keeping open California’s last nuclear plant for another five to ten years.

Diablo Canyon Power Plant provides nearly a tenth of California’s electrical power. The plant was scheduled to close by 2025.

Newsom’s draft proposal was released prior to a California Energy Commission meeting on the state’s energy needs. Under the proposal, the California Public Utilities Commission — the state’s utility regulator — would delay Diablo Canyon’s closure until sometime between 2030 and 2035.

The proposal includes a potential forgivable loan for plant operator Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) for up to $1.4 billion, reports the Associated Press. The loan would cover Diablo Canyon’s licensing costs.

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PG&E is ready to keep the plant running. “We are proud of the role that DCPP plays in our state, and we stand ready to support should there be a change in state policy, to help ensure grid reliability for our customers and all Californians at the lowest possible cost,” the utility said in a statement.

According to Reuters, PG&E is also applying for “separate federal funds under a $6 billion U.S. Department of Energy program aimed at saving nuclear power plants” that are scheduled for closure.

Newsom’s proposal is seen by some as a reversal of a complex 2016 agreement to close the plant by 2025. Environmental groups depicted Newsom’s proposal as a “dangerous” betrayal of the 2016 pact, according to the AP.

“Legislators should reject it out of hand,” said a joint statement from Friends of the Earth, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Environment California. “The findings used to justify these extraordinary provisions include no citations to published studies by any California regulator or agency recommending a further life extension for Diablo Canyon because there are none,” read the statement.

In recent months, the Biden administration has been attempting to revitalize the nuclear power industry as part of its plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions and transition to clean energy. In April, the administration launched a $6 billion program to help nuclear power plants struggling with rising costs.

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