Decision on California’s last nuclear plant could be postponed

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — California lawmakers and Governor Gavin Newsom’s office are discussing a possible compromise on the future of the state’s last operating nuclear power plant that could allow operator Pacific Gas & Electric to seek federal funds for longer reactor life.

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The draft proposal would amount to a legislative placeholder, keeping the idea of ​​an extended run for the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant in play while giving the Legislature more time to consider seismic safety, delayed maintenance and other problems at the site, located halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

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The plan surfaced amid the chaotic final days of the Legislative Assembly’s two-year session, which ends Wednesday at midnight.

On August 12, the Democratic governor proposed extending the plant’s operating life from five to ten years beyond its planned shutdown by 2025, which he said was necessary to maintain a reliable power supply at the era of climate change.

But lawmakers complained they were rushed at the last minute with a hugely complex plan, which is expected to be printed as a bill by the end of Sunday for consideration in this session.

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At a meeting of the state’s Senate Energy Committee on Thursday, Sen. John Laird, a Democrat from Santa Cruz whose district includes the plant, raised the possibility of the legislature doing what is « absolutely necessary. » to allow investor-owned PG&E to pursue the federal funds, while postponing other more contentious issues related to the future of reactors until next year when the legislature returns.

The Biden administration has set up a $6 billion program to save nuclear plants at risk of shutting down, but to apply before the Sept. 6 deadline, Diablo Canyon needs state legislation to show that he has the possibility of continuing his operations beyond his planned shutdown.

During the hearing, a senior Newsom administration official, Ana Matosantos, agreed that Laird’s proposal was a possibility of allowing PG&E to seek the funds, among other options that could be considered. The state expects to know by January whether the reactors would be eligible for a share of the funding, which some critics have doubted.

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“There is an active conversation, and there will be a bill circulating at some point” about a possible compromise, Laird said in an interview after the hearing. With negotiations continuing, it was not immediately clear what the final proposal would look like.

Newsom’s end-of-hour plan that included a $1.4 billion forgivable loan for PG&E has also met resistance from other Democratic lawmakers, who have offered an alternative that would accelerate solar power development and other renewable energy sources, but would require the nuclear plant to close as planned. .

Newsom’s proposal would attempt to unwind a complex 2016 deal between environmentalists, plant workers’ unions and the utility to close the decades-old plant by 2025. The joint decision was also endorsed by California utility regulators, the legislature and Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown. .

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In doing so, he reignited a long-running debate over seismic safety at the site, which has several seismic faults nearby, including one 650 yards (594 yards) from the reactors.

Environmental groups have described the move as a « dangerous » betrayal of the 2016 pact. Plant workers and pro-nuclear activists have backed an extended run for the plant, citing the need for its carbon-free energy in a warming climate.

There is little time left to find a compromise. PG&E CEO Patricia « Patti » Poppe told investors on a call last month that state legislation would need to be signed by Newsom by September to pave the way for a reversal of course.

During an appearance in Los Angeles this week, Newsom expressed confidence that his proposal would be approved.

« I’m confident we’ll land, » he said.

PG&E is also expected to obtain a new operating license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to operate the plant beyond 2025. The utility is following two paths: evaluating the possibility of longer operation, while simultaneously continuing to plan closure and decommissioning of the plant as planned. .

PG&E Vice President Maureen Zawalick told the Diablo Canyon Decommissioning Commitment Committee this week that if the state enacts the necessary legislation, « we would take immediate action » to seek an extended license, while requesting federal funding.



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