This article was written by BenitoLink intern Alexis Castro Juarez
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approved the continued operation of the Diablo Canyon Power Plant through 2030 while the agency considers its license renewal application. The plant was set to close in 2025.
Newsom said, “As we experienced during the record heat wave last September, climate change-driven extreme events are causing unprecedented stress on our power grid—the Diablo Canyon Power Plant is important to support energy reliability as we accelerate progress towards achieving our clean energy and climate goals.”
According to the NRC, after evaluating the company’s exemption request, its staff “determined that the exemption is authorized by law, will not present undue risk to the public health and safety, and is consistent with the common defense and security.” In addition, the staff determined Diablo Canyon’s continued operation is in the public interest because of serious challenges to the reliability of California’s electricity grid.
According to PG&E Communications Representative Carina Corral, the power plant is California’s largest clean energy resource. Located in San Luis Obispo County, the plant generates 17% of California’s zero-carbon electricity and nearly 9% of the state’s total electricity supply.
However, the impact to San Benito County is unknown as PG&E and the California Independent System Operator (ISO) told BenitoLink that they don’t track data usage by county.
Corral told BenitoLink that PG&E provides carbon-free electricity to more than 3 million people in the state.
According to a news release from the governor’s office, during the week of Feb. 26, the California Energy Commision (CEC) formally determined that the state should pursue extending operation of the Diablo Canyon Power Plant through 2030 to ensure electricity reliability. It adds that the determination is based on data showing California risks energy supply shortfalls during extreme weather events driven by climate change.
“As California confronts a rapidly changing climate, extraordinary heat events and record energy demand are becoming increasingly ordinary,” CEC Vice Chair Siva Gunda said. “The state needs to keep all options on the table to protect public health and safety. This includes maintaining Diablo Canyon’s to support reliability statewide in the near-term. An extension would allow more time for additional clean energy projects to come on-line as we work on the long-term transition away from fossil fuels.”
The CEC said the increase in demand is due in part to the growing electrification of buildings and transportation.
In September 2022, Newsom signed SB 846 by Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa) authorizing a limited-term extension of the Diablo Canyon Power Plant. The release said the measure was developed in partnership with the legislature and structured to take advantage of the opportunity for federal support while minimizing costs to California ratepayers and taxpayers.
In November, the federal Department of Energy announced that it awarded $1.1 billion from the Civil Nuclear Credit Program to support a limited-term extension of the Diablo Canyon Power Plant.