The administration is providing Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) with a $1.1 billion grant to assist the company in keeping the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant open, which is the last remaining nuclear plant in California. The money comes from the infrastructure measure that was passed by Congress last year.
“This is a critical step toward ensuring that our domestic nuclear fleet will continue providing reliable and affordable power to Americans as the nation’s largest source of clean electricity,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a statement.
While the plant was originally set to be shut down over the course of 2024 and 2025, state legislators voted in September to keep it up and running for five additional years. Democratic Governor of California Gavin Newsom has moved in favor of not shutting down the nuclear power plant and proposed an extension of the plant this year.
California has struggled under its quick transition to renewable energy as the state faced rolling energy blackouts in August of 2020. Earlier this year, another heat wave plagued the state and residents were told to reduce their energy use at certain times of the day in order to keep the electric grid functioning.
Earlier this year, the state reached 100% renewable energy, but energy sources such as wind and solar are not as reliable as fossil fuels and have put the state in a precarious situation during multiple days of high temperatures. In 2021, nuclear power made up around 10% of the state’s electricity. Diablo Canyon provided more than 8%, with the remainder coming from Washington and Arizona.
In April, the administration started a program that will give financially struggling nuclear power plants in the United States $6 billion. The initiative was funded by the massive infrastructure legislation.
U.S. Department of Energy authorities said the funds for Diablo will be given out over the course of four years. The final details of the grant are still going to be worked out with the company, as well.
PG&E has been the source of controversy in the past. Last month, the company faced a potential $155 million fine for its connection to the Zogg fire in 2020 that resulted in the destruction of 200 residences and four deaths. It was also charged with criminal counts in the fire and pleaded not guilty to four charges of involuntary manslaughter over the summer.
State fire authorities have said the fire started when a tree fell onto one of the company’s distribution lines. The California Public Utilities Commission proposed the fine because it said the company did not get rid of two trees that had been designated to be removed, and one of them ended up falling down.
At the time, PG&E said in a statement that it had come to a conclusive result with the civil claims of Shasta County. It had the option to either pay the fine and take steps to correct its practices or ask for a hearing after the regulator advances the proposed order.