As California’s need for energy continues to rise, Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom is now reconsidering whether or not to close the state’s last remaining nuclear power plant.
California’s last remaining nuclear power plant was set to close by 2025, but Newsom seems to be getting cold feet. He told a local TV station that he is in support of “keeping all options on the table” to ensure the state has a “reliable grid” heading into the summer.
“It is very, very hard at this point, to turn this battleship around,” Katie Tubb, research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Wire. “The first reactor is scheduled to close in 2024, the second in 2025. There’s a process to actually getting beyond those dates…”
The plant in question is Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, owned by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), which was planning to shut down the plant by 2025. The plant created about 6% of California’s power last year. In 2016, PG&E reached an agreement with environment organizations and its union workers to stop its nuclear work after its licenses for nuclear reactors end in 2024 and 2025.
Newsom, however, is shifting the goalposts a bit. He said he’s looking into trying to get federal funds – up to $6 billion dollars – that are directed at helping save nuclear reactors facing shutdowns. The Biden administration announced this funding in April.
Newsom said state authorities could determine later on whether or not they want to go forward with that as a possibility. A spokesperson for Newsom told the Los Angeles Times that he still supports shutting down the plant eventually.
Technically, Newsom doesn’t actually make the call since he doesn’t own the plant. A description of the Biden administration’s guidance says it “directs owners or operators of nuclear power reactors that are expected to shut down due to economic circumstances on how to apply for funding to avoid premature closure.”
While it appears that PG&E will need to apply for the funds itself, it looks like PG&E might go for it.
A spokesperson for PG&E, Suzanne Hosn, told The Daily Wire in an email: “PG&E is committed to California’s clean energy future. The people of PG&E are proud of the role that Diablo Canyon Power Plant plays in our state. We are always open to considering all options to ensure continued safe, reliable, and clean energy delivery to our customers.”
Tubb, the Heritage research fellow, had doubts the plant would actually stay open. There’s also a question as to whether the plant qualifies for the federal funds because, as Tubb says, it is shutting down for political reasons, not economic reasons.
Nuclear energy could have a massive impact going forward. In 2020, nuclear energy made up more than 9% of the state’s total power mix. For Diablo Canyon specifically, it’s significant. The two reactors at the plant create a total of 18,000 gigawatt-hours of electricity each year, which PG&E says is enough energy to power three million Northern and Central Californians.
Nuclear energy makes up almost as much as all other renewable energy sources combined in the U.S., so this isn’t just a California issue. States across the country are looking to create renewable energy — and do it in a climate-friendly way — so nuclear could be an option if the multiple sides to this debate can get on board.