LOS ANGELES — California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday proposed extending the life of the state’s last operating nuclear power plant by at least five to 10 years to maintain reliable power supplies in the climate change era.
A draft bill obtained by The Associated Press said the plan would allow the plant to continue operating beyond a scheduled closing by 2025.
The draft proposal also includes a possible loan for operator Pacific Gas & Electric for up to $1. 4 billion.
The proposal was confirmed by Newsom spokesman Anthony York. The bill says impacts of climate change are occurring sooner than anticipated and are simultaneously driving up electrical demand while reducing power supplies.
” The governor has made it clear that he is concerned about the possibility of extending the life expectancy at Diablo Canyon. York stated. He added that Newsom’s administration has stressed the need to keep all options on the table to maintain reliable power and that “this proposal reflects the continued need to keep that flexibility.”
The proposal said the continued operation of the Diablo Canyon plant beyond 2025 is “critical to ensure statewide energy system reliability.”
Nuclear power doesn’t produce carbon pollution like fossil fuels, but leaves behind waste that can remain dangerously radioactive for centuries.
The draft proposal was obtained before a meeting of the California Energy Commission on California’s energy requirements and what role the coastside plant could play between Los Angeles, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Newsom’s plan was met by immediate criticism from environmentalists who called it a huge financial giveaway for PG&E that pushes aside state environmental safeguards.
If approved, the state would “give PG&E over $1 billion in loans at below the interest rate even state agencies charge among themselves, and it’s completely forgivable,” said David Weisman, legislative director of the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility, an advocacy group.
PG&E’s service area is concentrated in Northern California and Weisman asked: “What are taxpayers in Southern California getting out of this?”
Ralph Cavanagh of the Natural Resources Defense Council said the plan would provide sweeping exemptions from environmental rules, including the California Environmental Quality Act.
“This draft was prepared by someone with little understanding of California energy policy or history,” Cavanagh said. The California Legislature still has three weeks to decide if they will make an unusual move to prolong the plant’s life. This decision would have to be made in the face of looming questions about the costs, who would pay them and the earthquake safety risk.
The legislative session ends Aug. 31, when all business has been suspended. Newsom may call a special session to allow for a more extended consideration of the matter.
The Democratic governor is being considered as a potential future White House candidate. PG&E has been urging them for months to extend the closing date by 2025,. This is to ensure that the power plant is available to provide reliable service in the transition to renewable energy sources like solar and wind.
Newsom’s administration is expected to outline its argument Friday during a three-hour California Energy Commission hearing focused on the state’s power needs in the climate change era, and what role the decades-old nuclear plant might have in maintaining reliable electricity in the nation’s most populous state.
Newsom is being questioned by state Senator John Laird (a Santa Cruz Democrat whose congressional district contains the nuclear plant).
With an extended run, “Who pays, and is there fairness in who pays?” Laird asked in an interview. They will address that. “There were additional earthquake faults found near the plant and no seismic upgrades were completed. Will they address that?”
Laird outlined other issues that include who would pay for maintenance that has been put off because the plant is scheduled to close by 2025, and whether there is time for PG&E to order and receive additional radioactive fuel — and casks to store spent fuel — to keep operating. I am still waiting to hear if… and what they do to address the potential issues associated with an extension, before I make a decision about my vote.” Laird stated.
” We are working within a very tight deadline,” Laird said. “That begs the question of could they do everything it needs to be extended by 2025?”
Newsom’s draft proposal amounts to an attempt to unspool a 2016 agreement among environmentalists, plant worker unions and the utility to close the plant by 2025. The joint decision to close the plant also was endorsed by California utility regulators, the Legislature and then-Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown.
PG&E CEO Patricia Poppe said in a conference call that September would be the deadline for state legislation to take effect to allow PG&E’s reversal.
PG&E has said that the plant’s seismic safety has been maintained for many years. However, it hasn’t said anything about whether or not they will seek to expand operations beyond 2025.. Suzanne Hosn, spokesperson for PG&E said that the company was still evaluating this possibility and will continue to plan for shutting down and dismantling of the plant, “unless these actions are overridden by new state policies.”
PG&E also would have to obtain a new operating license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to run beyond 2025.
With so many pending issues and little time, “it is rushed. It does not make sense,” Weisman said.
“The plant can’t run a day longer than the NRC license,” which expires in August 2025, he added.
Newsom’s push for a longer run for the reactors doesn’t square easily with his assessment in 2016, when as lieutenant governor he supported the closure agreement as part of the State Lands Commission.
Seismic issues at the plant “are not insignificant concerns,” he said at the time. “This is not the preeminent site if you’re … concerned about seismic safety.”
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