May 27, 2022
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Newsom says state may try to keep Diablo Canyon nuclear plant open past 2025

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In a move that caught Central Coast politicians scrambling for details, Gov. Gavin Newsom signaled on April 29 that he might try to keeping the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant near San Luis Obispo open beyond its scheduled 2025 closure.

During a meeting with the Los Angeles Times editorial board, Newsom opened the door to California applying for some of the $6 billion in subsidies the Biden administration is offering to extend the lives of nuclear stations around the country.

“We would be remiss not to put that on the table as an option,” he told the Times.

His remark was encouraging to a group of people, including San Luis Obispo county supervisors and other elected officials, who have urged the governor to consider delaying the Diablo Canyon closure in the face of extreme drought, increased demand for power and the potential shortfall in power generated by hydroelectric stations. Diablo Canyon accounts for about 10% of California’s electricity generation and does so without producing greenhouse gases.

Nuclear stations, along with hyrdro and fossil fuel plants, provide the kind of 24/7 capacity to generate so-called “baseload power” that’s crucial to stable operations. Solar and wind power require major battery storage installations to achieve that kind of stability.

Advocates for Diablo Canyon remaining open argue it is the only viable fossil-fuel free alternative if reservoirs are too low to generate electricity. Many scientists agree that because of a lack of storage capacity, renewables are not yet reliable enough to maintain a stable power grid.

U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, said any plan to keep Diablo Canyon operating needs a buy-in from “environmental stakeholders, nuclear safety advocates and labor.” He said in a statement on April 29 that keeping the plant open would upend “a consensus agreement” hammered out over years of negotiations with area residents and political leaders.

Newsom’s office followed up with a statement that any extension for Diablo Canyon would be limited and that the closing of the plant “in the long term” is still part of the Newsom administration’s official policy. The state has until May 18 to submit a proposal for federal subsidies to continue nuclear plant operations.