A longer life for Diablo Canyon? Newsom touts Nuke extension | USA News®

By MICHAEL R. BLOOD, Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Facing potential power shortages, California Governor Gavin Newsom on Friday raised the possibility that the state’s only remaining nuclear power plant could continue to operate beyond a shutdown. planned by 2025, an idea that could rekindle a decades-old struggle over seismic safety at the site.

The Democratic governor has no direct authority over the license to operate the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, which sits on a seaside bluff above the Pacific halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. But the governor has floated the idea that the owner of the Pacific Gas & Electric plant could seek a $6 billion share of federal funding the Biden administration has established to save nuclear plants at risk of shutting down.

“The governor supports keeping all options on the table to ensure we have a reliable (power) grid,” spokeswoman Erin Mellon said. “This includes considering an expansion of Diablo Canyon, which continues to be an important resource as we transition to clean energy.”

PG&E, which in 2016 decided to close the plant by 2025, did not directly respond to Newsom’s suggestion or indicate whether the company would consider backtracking to ask for federal dollars to stay open beyond that. of the planned closure.

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“We are always open to exploring all options to ensure a continued supply of safe, reliable and clean power to our customers,” PG&E spokeswoman Suzanne Hosn said in an email.

Newsom’s office stressed that “for the long term,” the governor continues to support closing Diablo Canyon as the state transitions to renewable energy. Newsom first revealed the idea to the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times.

PG&E announced the shutdown plan as part of a deal with environmentalists and unionized workers in 2016, citing a “recognition that California’s new energy policies will significantly reduce Diablo Canyon’s need for power generation.” But Newsom’s suggestion underscores that thinking has changed, as the state searches for reliable power sources in a changing global climate, while California gradually transitions to solar, wind and other renewables. .

Skeptics have questioned whether California’s all-inclusive renewable plan could work in a state of nearly 40 million people.

Newsom’s suggestion comes at a time when President Joe Biden’s approval ratings have fallen sharply and as the governor seeks a second term in Sacramento amid widespread voter angst over inflation, homelessness and the rising crime rates. Republicans regularly attack Newsom for state power issues.

Any proposal to extend plant life is certain to reignite a broad battle over plant safety and would involve complex reviews by an array of state and federal agencies.

The issues at play in Diablo Canyon range from a long-running debate over the structures’ ability to withstand earthquakes — a rift extends 650 yards (594 yards) from the reactors — to the possibility that PG&E could be ordered by state regulators to spend potentially billions of dollars to modify or replace the plant’s cooling system, which sucks water from the ocean and has been accused of killing fish and other marine life .

Even before the twin reactors produced a single watt of electricity, the plant had to be upgraded after a submerged fault was discovered 4.8 kilometers offshore during construction.

In 2014, Diablo Canyon’s former chief federal inspector urged regulators to shut down the plant until they could determine if the twin reactors could withstand powerful tremors from nearby seismic faults. Regulators later rejected the request.

Erich Pica, president of environmental group Friends of the Earth, which was part of the plant’s phase-out deal, said he was “disappointed that he (Newsom) wanted to reopen this conversation”.

Given that Newsom — then lieutenant governor — was part of the effort to shut down the plant, “it’s surprising,” Pica added.

Research by scientists at Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology concluded that delaying Diablo Canyon’s retirement to 2035 would save California $2.6 billion in electrical system costs. , would reduce the risk of brownouts and reduce carbon emissions. When the research was presented in November, former US Energy Secretary Steven Chu said the country was not positioned in the near term to move to 100% renewable energy.

There are 55 commercial nuclear power plants with 93 nuclear reactors in 28 US states. Nuclear energy already provides about 20% of electricity in the United States, or about half of the country’s carbon-free energy.

Associated Press writer Jennifer McDermott in Providence, Rhode Island contributed.

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