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California’s Last Nuclear Plant Could be Forced to Close, Despite Newsom’s Extension

Diablo Canyon, the last operational nuclear power plant in California, could be forced to shut down by 2025 despite a five-year extension signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), leaving the state potentially short of power.

On Tuesday, the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) rejected an effort by the Pacific Gas & Electric Company to reinstate permit applications that it had withdrawn. Its current permits expire in 2024 and 2025 for each of the two reactors in the plant, and new applications could take months.

CBS News reported:

The decision marks the latest skirmish in a long-running fight over the operation and safety of the decades-old Diablo Canyon plant, which Gov. Gavin Newsom says should keep running beyond a scheduled 2025 closure to ward off possible blackouts as the state transitions to solar and other renewable sources.

In October, Pacific Gas & Electric asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to resume consideration of an application initially submitted in 2009 to extend the plant’s life, which later was withdrawn after PG&E in 2016 announced plans to shutter the reactors.

Under existing rules, the operating licenses for the sister reactors expire in 2024 and 2025, at which time they would be forced to close.

Last year, Newsom reversed his long-standing opposition to nuclear power and successfully urged the state legislature to vote to extend the plant’s operating life to 2030.

The reason: after several electricity shortages, Newsom and the Democrats, who have set the goal of zero net carbon emissions by 2045, were wary of losing 6% of the state’s electricity supply, given that solar and wind power have been incapable of filling the gap.

Environmental groups were elated by the NRC’s decision, with Environmental Working Group (EWG) attorney Caroline Leary declaring in a statement: ““It’s not too late for the California Legislature to re-direct the billion dollars slated for revival of these unsafe and uneconomical reactors to the support of safe and renewable alternative energy sources such as solar and wind power, energy efficiency and load management.”


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