PG&E has been given more time to consider whether to apply for federal funding to keep Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant open and operating.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently granted the utility company’s request to extend the deadline for the Civil Nuclear Credit program, a $6 billion funding initiative to help keep struggling nuclear power plants operational. The deadline was pushed back from July 5 to Sept. 6, according to the DOE.
PG&E spokesperson Lynsey Paulo noted that PG&E is still considering whether it will apply for the funds, “which would reduce costs to our customers should the state want to preserve the option to extend (Diablo Canyon) operations to help ensure grid reliability.”
State funding also might be available to keep the power plant operational.
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the “energy trailer bill” on Thursday with $75 million allocated to the state Department of Water Resources to potentially prolong the plant’s life.
“The governor requested this language, not as a decision to move ahead with continuing operation of Diablo Canyon, but to protect the option to do that if a future decision is made,” state Sen. John Laird, D-Santa Cruz, told CalMatters.
Since 2018, it’s been expected that Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant would close its two reactors in 2024 and 2025, after its licenses expired.
However, a recent shift has caused many to call for the power plant to stay open, despite strong opposition from anti-nuclear groups.
“Experts agree that keeping Diablo Canyon open for a transitionary period will be critical to keeping the lights on and the AC running,” said Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham, R-San Luis Obispo.
“Even with expected capital improvement costs, continuing the plant’s operation will save ratepayers billions, according to a study by MIT and Stanford — and that’s without accounting for the billions in state and federal funding that might be available to help defray costs.
Cunningham added that closing the power plant “will come at significant costs to ratepayers,” as the state would be “forced to buy even more expensive, out-of-state power on the spot market.”
San Luis Obispo Mothers For Peace, an advocacy group opposed to Diablo Canyon remaining open, wrote in a letter to the DOE on Monday that the federal government shouldn’t focus its funding on prolonging the life of the power plant.
“Diablo Canyon’s closure will do much more for California’s climate goals, local communities and economic and environmental justice than would be provided by including Diablo Canyon in the (Civil Nuclear Credit) program,” the letter said.
As for how much money it would cost to keep Diablo Canyon open, PG&E doesn’t appear to know quite yet.
“Current state policy is to retire (Diablo Canyon) at the end of its current licenses,” PG&E spokesperson Paulo wrote in an email to The Tribune. “If there were a change in state policy, PG&E believes that either the state itself or customers of all local-serving entities in the state should help fund that option.”
“Given that the governor only recently asked us to explore the steps needed to preserve the option of continued operations and our ongoing evaluations of DOE guidance, we don’t have any (cost) estimates to share at this time,” she added.