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UPDATE: Lawmakers vote to keep Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant running until 2030

Posted at 11:06 PM, Aug 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-01 11:04:49-04

UPDATE 1:02 a.m.

California state lawmakers voted early Wednesday morning to keep the Diablo Canyon Nuclear power plant running.

After an overwhelming majority vote, The plant will keep running till 2030 instead of 2025.

Following the vote, PG&E spokesperson Suzanne Hosn provided the following statement:

"PG&E is committed to California’s clean energy future. As a regulated utility, we follow the energy policies of the state. Early this morning, the legislature voted to seek to extend operations at Diablo Canyon Power Plant five years beyond its current license period to ensure statewide electric grid reliability as California transitions toward its clean energy future. This legislation has been sent to the governor.

"We remain focused on continuing to provide reliable, low-cost, carbon-free energy to the people of California, while safely operating one of the top performing plants in the country. "

The fate of Diablo Canyon is up in the air as state lawmakers get ready to vote on extending the life of the nuclear power plant.

State lawmakers will vote Tuesday night on extending the life of Diablo Canyon by another five years.

The future of California’s last operating nuclear power plant is back in the spotlight as state lawmakers debate relicensing diablo canyon beyond the current decommissioning date in 2025

Senate Bill 856 would lend $1.4 billion to PG&E to extend operations by five years through 2030.

“This is really a bill that is about Diablo Canyon, but it’s about Diablo Canyon plus other things that move us towards a carbon-free electric grid,” said Dan Richard, Executive Director for Carbon Free California.

The legislation was authored by Central Coast Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham and State Senator Bill Dodd.

It also allocates $1 billion to support the clean energy reliability and investment plan.

The proposal has kicked off a fierce lobbying campaign among those opposed to and in support of the legislation.

“I think governor Newsom is acting recklessly,” said Friends of the Earth President Erich Peca. “The retirement of the Diablo Canyon nuclear reactors was almost 10 years of negotiations with agreements between PG&E and environmental groups.”

“We need to do two things in California," said Richard. "We need to keep the lights on. It’s a matter of life and death for a lot of people. We also need to move aggressively towards moving away from carbon-based resources, and Diablo Canyon figures into both of those things.”

Pro-nuclear groups said that nuclear energy plays an important role in transitioning to a carbon-free future.

“The best path towards reduction of emissions is an ‘all of the above' approach which means a lot of solar, a lot of wind, and also nuclear energy,” said Jacopo Buongiorno, Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering at MIT. “The state has a historic opportunity here to affirm that concept and instead of taking a big step back and shutting down Diablo Canyon, they can extend it.”

Environmental groups, on the other hand, are raising concerns about seismic safety, nuclear waste storage, and the prospect of undoing years of work to shut down the plant.

“If Diablo Canyon gets relicensed and extended, what are you gonna do with that waste? There isn’t an answer for the waste that’s sitting there right now, let alone continuing to add to it for the next five years,” said Peca.

Pro-nuclear groups added that nuclear power is needed for the foreseeable future until wind and solar can reliably power California’s power grid.

“The metaphor that comes to mind is ‘most trapeze artists wait for the other trapeze to get there before they let go of the first one,’” said Richard.

If the bill passes, it would kick off a lengthy re-licensing process that involves both federal and state regulatory agencies.

“By early next spring, they would have to go back to the nuclear regulatory commission and say ‘we would like to pick up the process where we left off in 2016.’ We would like to move forward with the re-licensing application in front of that federal agency,” said Richards.

Opposing environmental groups said they will fight for sticking to the current decommissioning date even if the legislation passes, adding that California is on track to a green energy future.

“So the whole idea with the joint proposal was to have a planned retirement of Diablo Canyon so that we could replace the energy from Diablo Canyon with renewable energy,” said Peca. “We’re on track and on the plan to do that so this intervention by the governor is hasty and it’s reckless.”

To pass, the bill needs a two-thirds majority in both houses of the state legislature.

The plan calls for California to loan PG&E money until it secures federal funding to re-license Diablo Canyon.