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New state and federal funds becoming available could help keep Diablo Canyon Power Plant open

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Posted at 6:49 PM, Jun 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-01 00:02:59-04

Diablo Canyon Power Plant is currently slated for closure in just a few years, but now PG&E is showing interest in applying for funds that could save California's last nuclear power plant.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is seeking applications for the Civil Nuclear Credit program which will allow owners and operators of nuclear reactors to apply for funding that would help them stay open.

The available $6 billion is coming from last year’s bipartisan infrastructure bill.

Back in April, California Governor Gavin Newsom told the LA Times he would look into tapping into these funds.

On June 17, the DOE proposed a change to the program’s eligibility criteria that would make it easier for the Diablo Canyon Power Plant to apply. While applying to these funds is up to the plant operator, in a statement to KSBY, PG&E said:

“Considering the recent direction from the state, we have requested an extension of the civil nuclear credit program application deadline to consider and possibly apply for funding, which would reduce costs to our customers should the state want to preserve the option to extend DCPP operations to help ensure grid reliability.”

The local group Mothers for Peace, along with 178 organizations, sent a 34-page letter to the Department of Energy urging them not to change the eligibility criteria.

“This is a very well-coordinated effort on the pro-nuclear side of things to keep an industry that’s 20th-Century technology that we’re way past, to keep it alive when it actually needs to go dormant," said Linda Seeley, spokesperson for the organization.

However, on Thursday afternoon, the DOE granted PG&E's request and extended the deadline to September 6.

There is also support for keeping the power plant open at the state level with lawmakers approving the Energy Trailer bill on Wednesday that allocates a reserve fund of up to $75 million to the Department of Water Resources for energy uses.

“We’re not talking about relicensing for another 20 years which is the max the state could seek. We’re talking about a 5-year transition period and then maybe 10 years at most and then updating and updating it according to the facts on the ground," said Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham, (R) District 35.

The two reactors at Diablo Canyon are scheduled to shut down in 2024 and 2025.

But Cunningham says California won't have a 100% renewable energy grid by 2025, which is why the push to keep the power plant open is underway.

“The reality is we aren’t there yet, we aren’t even close. We import a ton of dirty power, so-called dirty power, from out of state now. With Diablo gone, that’s another nine percent that gets imported at least... Close Diablo Canyon in 2025 and not extend it, we could be in rolling blackouts during heat waves and all sorts of dire things we don’t want to see happen," Cunningham claimed.

In order to continue operating past its closure date, PG&E would also have to reapply for licensing with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.