by Camille DeVaul
for the Santa Ynez Valley Star
CALIFORNIA — On Thursday, April 28, Gov. Gavin Newsomtold the L.A. Times editorial board he is reconsidering the closure of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant in San Luis Obispo.
The power plant stands as California’s last nuclear power plant. Planned to begin decommissioning in 2025, Newsom said the state is now looking to seek out a share of $6 billion in federal funds for nuclear reactors facing closure. In 2021, the plant in Diablo Canyon generated 6 percent of the state’s power.
Earlier this month, the Biden administration announced they were accepting applications for their $6 billion Civil Nuclear Credit Program. The funding is an effort to prevent at-risk nuclear facilities from premature closure while supporting Biden’s clean energy goals.
The Department of Energy’s (DOE) guidance for receiving the funds includes “… nuclear power reactors that are expected to shut down due to economic circumstances …”
Additionally, the DOE says the investment is meant to avoid premature retirements of reactors and to preserve jobs.
Per Newsom, the state has until May 19 to submit its application to receive the funds. State officials would later decide their final plans on whether or not to pursue the option. However, it was clarified by a spokesperson for the governor that he will still seek to close the facility long-term.
Diablo Canyon Power Plant began providing power in 1985. Six years ago, PG&E agreed to close the plant.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, there were 93 operating nuclear reactors in the United States at the end of 2021. However, in 2021 alone, there were 23 nuclear reactors shut down at 19 different sites in various decommissioning stages.
A 2013 economic impact study conducted by PG&E and Cal Poly stated the power plant directly provided over 1,483 local jobs — not including employment produced from contracted work. Locally, those jobs equate to a total payroll of $202,520,307.
The California governor told the L.A. Times he has been thinking about extending the power plant’s operation since before August 2020 — when the state experienced rolling blackouts during a heatwave that prevented solar farms from operating.
PG&E has declined to comment on how federal funds may be used to keep Diablo open. However, it was previously reported the operation of the plant past 2025 would require billions of dollars to comply with new regulations.
California State Sen. John Laird, whose district includes San Luis Obispo County, said of the developing news, “The shuttering of Diablo Canyon has been years in the making, with hundreds of millions of dollars already committed for decommissioning. Along with the residents of the Central Coast, I am eager to see what the Governor and federal officials have in mind.”
This is a developing story; we will update as more information is available.