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Tribune News Service
Tribune News Service
Dale Kasler

PG&E formally moves to extend life of Diablo Canyon, the last nuclear plant in California

PG&E Corp. formally asked federal regulators Monday to extend the life of Diablo Canyon, the last operating nuclear plant in California, as part of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s effort to improve reliability of the electricity grid.

The state’s largest utility announced it applied to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to renew Diablo Canyon’s license and postpone the planned 2025 shutdown of the San Luis Obispo County plant, which supplies about 9% of the state’s power.

Newsom, reversing his earlier opposition to prolonging Diablo Canyon’s lifespan, signed legislation in September that would keep the plant open until 2030. The legislation also allows the state to loan PG&E as much as $1.4 billion to make upgrades needed to postpone the plant’s closure.

The governor appealed to lawmakers to keep Diablo Canyon alive to prevent rolling blackouts. The power grid is increasingly reliant on solar and other renewable energy sources. That makes it vulnerable to shortages during extreme heat waves, as in August 2020, when solar power fades in early evening but temperatures remain high.

California narrowly avoided blackouts in early September, shortly after Newsom signed the bill, during a string of 110-degree-plus days.

PG&E had decided to close the 37-year-old plant because it didn’t pencil out particularly well as cheaper energy sources such as wind and solar become more prevalent. But the utility relented as Newsom pressed for an extension. The governor’s aides told lawmakers that without Diablo Canyon, the state’s grid could become increasingly unstable.

“We are proud of the role Diablo Canyon plays in providing safe, reliable, low-cost and carbon-free energy to our customers and Californians,” said Paul Gerfen, the company’s chief nuclear officer, in a statement Monday. “This request to renew our licenses is another step to help California reliable achieve its bold decarbonization goals.”

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