California’s last operating nuclear power plant is expected to stay open for another five years thanks to a government grant under the Department of Energy’s Civil Nuclear Credit Program.
Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) is set to receive a $1.1 billion government grant to prevent the closure of California’s Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. Originally, Diablo Canyon was set for decommissioning between 2024 and 2025, but state congressmen elected to keep it open for an additional five years.
The Diablo Canyon plant is the state’s largest source of energy as it provides around 8.6% of the state’s overall power requirements, and is responsible for 17% of its carbon-free electricity.
At present, it has helped Californians cope with the power shortages that hit it during last summer’s heatwave, and may remain instrumental in keeping the lights on as the state continues to bear the brunt of worsening heat waves due to climate change.
Currently, the final terms of the said grant are still subject to negotiation. According to a representative from the US Department of Energy, the said funding is meant to cover PG&E’s potential losses from keeping the nuclear power plant open.
As this funding program is still in its initial stages, PG&E is one of the lucky ones, as not all power plants that have applied have received funding in any form.
Vocal Support from the State Government
For her part, California state senator Dianne Feinstein believes that keeping Diablo Canyon open is a necessary measure in light of the state’s clean energy and carbon neutrality goals. Likewise, it is a way of continuing to supply the state with a reliable power source in light of the ongoing power crisis.
Feinstein added that she would keep an eye on the funding process in order to ensure that the necessary safety and environmental reviews are done on both the federal and state levels.
State Governor Gavin Newsom, on the other hand, says that the grant only provides a limited stay for the Diablo Canyon plant. However, he added that it should also be construed as a way of supporting power reliability throughout California, as well as an on-ramp for future projects related to clean and renewable power.
Not Without Opposition
Despite support from the relevant government authorities, however, keeping Diablo Canyon open remains a very controversial decision, especially among environmentalists.
A number have already pointed out that the plant’s location, right next to the Pacific Ocean in San Luis Obispo County, is in an earthquake-prone zone. Likewise, environmental groups have constantly pointed out that the plant still has no permanent waste disposal measures.