California Governor Proposes Extending Life of Nuclear Plant


California Governor Gavin Newsom proposed Friday to extend the life of the state’s last operating nuclear power plant by at least five to 10 years to maintain reliable energy supplies in the age of climate change.

A bill obtained by The Associated Press said the plan would allow the plant to continue operating beyond its scheduled 2025 closure.

The draft proposal also includes a potential loan to operator Pacific Gas & Electric for up to $1.4 billion.

The proposal was confirmed by Newsom’s spokesman, Anthony York. The bill says the impacts of climate change are happening sooner than anticipated while simultaneously increasing electrical demand and reducing energy supply.

The proposal said continued operation of the Diablo Canyon plant beyond 2025 is “critical to ensuring power system reliability statewide.”

The draft was obtained ahead of a California Energy Commission meeting on the state’s energy needs and the role the seaside plant midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco could play.

The California Legislature has less than three weeks to determine whether to take an extraordinary step and try to extend the life of the plant, a decision that would come amid questions about cost, who would pay and earthquake safety risks.

The legislative session closes on August 31, when all business is suspended, and only a rare special session called by Newsom could provide a longer period to consider the measure.

The Democratic governor, who is seen as a possible future White House candidate, has for months urged PG&E to seek a longer timeframe beyond a scheduled 2025 shutdown, warning that power from the plant is necessary to maintain reliable service. as the state transitions to solar power. wind and other renewable sources of energy.

The Newsom administration is expected to make its case Friday during a three-hour California Energy Commission hearing focused on the state’s energy needs in the age of climate change, and what role the decades-old nuclear plant could play. of seniority in the maintenance of reliable electricity in the most populous countries of the country. condition.

Among those posing questions to Newsom is state Sen. John Laird, a Democrat from Santa Cruz whose district includes the plant.

With an extended print run, “Who pays, and is there justice in who pays?” Laird asked in an interview. “Additional seismic faults have been discovered near the plant, and the seismic upgrades were never fully completed. Will they address that?”

Laird outlined other issues including who would pay for maintenance that was postponed because the plant is scheduled to close in 2025; if there is time for PG&E to request and receive additional radioactive fuel, and containers to store the spent fuel, to continue operating; and electricity from reactors would get in the way of wind power transmission expected to come online in the next few years.

Potentially billions of dollars in costs could be at stake.

“I’m really waiting to see if… and how they address all the issues associated with a possible extension before I decide what I’m going to do,” Laird said, referring to a possible vote.

“We’re in a tight time frame,” Laird added. “That raises the question of whether they could do everything you need to do to extend to 2025.”

Newsom’s draft proposal amounts to an attempt to unwind a 2016 agreement between environmentalists, plant worker unions and the utility company to close the plant by 2025. The joint decision to close the plant was also backed by the California utility regulators, the Legislature and the then Democratic governor. .Jerry Brown.

PG&E CEO Patricia “Patti” Poppe told investors on a call last month that state legislation would have to be enacted in September to pave the way for PG&E to change course.

PG&E, which has long said the plant is seismically safe, hasn’t said much about whether it will push to extend operations beyond 2025. It is evaluating that possibility as it continues to plan for the plant’s closure and decommissioning “unless those actions be superseded by new state policies,” PG&E spokeswoman Suzanne Hosn said in a statement.

PG&E would also have to obtain a new operating license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to operate beyond 2025.

With so much unfinished business and little time, “it’s rushed. It doesn’t make sense,” said David Weisman, legislative director of the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility, an advocacy group.

“The plant cannot operate one day longer than the NRC license,” which expires in August 2025, Weisman added.

Newsom’s push for longer reactor operation does not fit easily with his assessment in 2016, when as lieutenant governor he supported the closure deal as part of the State Land Commission.

Seismic problems at the plant are “not insignificant concerns,” he said at the time. “This is not the pre-eminent site if you are…concerned about seismic safety.

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