Governor, lawmakers debate longer run for California nukes

Aug 29, 2022, 4:09 AM | Updated: 4:14 pm
FILE - One of Pacific Gas & Electric's Diablo Canyon Power Plant's nuclear reactors in Avila Beach,...

FILE - One of Pacific Gas & Electric's Diablo Canyon Power Plant's nuclear reactors in Avila Beach, Calif., is viewed Nov. 3, 2008. California legislators and Gov. California Gov. Gavin Newsom and a group of legislators reached a late-hour compromise bill released late Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022, to extend the lifespan of the state's last operating nuclear plant by up to five years, but the proposal faces an uncertain future even if it manages to clear the Legislature in the final days of a two-year session. (AP Photo/Michael A. Mariant, File)

(AP Photo/Michael A. Mariant, File)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom and a group of legislators reached a last-minute compromise to extend the lifespan of the state’s last operating nuclear plant by up to five years. But the proposal faces an uncertain future as the Legislature concludes its two-year session this week.

To pass, the proposal to keep the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant running needs a two-thirds vote in the state Assembly and Senate, a threshold that can be difficult to reach. Last week, a competing proposal emerged from Democratic legislators that would use $1.4 billion to speed up development of renewable power and transmission lines, while leaving intact plans to shutter the twin-domed plant by 2025.

Newsom has argued that the reactors are needed to fill gaps in the state power supply as California transitions to solar, wind and other renewables. He earlier proposed the reactors remain online for an additional 10 years, which was dropped in the latest version of the plan.

The legislation is anchored to the assumption that operator Pacific Gas & Electric will qualify for a share of $6 billion the Biden administration has set aside to rescue nuclear plants at risk of closing. But if that doesn’t happen, the state could consider backing out of the deal.

PG&E also would need approval to keep running from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a process that has not started and sometimes takes years to complete.

Pro-nuclear advocates and industry-linked groups have praised the idea of a longer life for the reactors and their carbon-free power in the climate change era. But environmentalists and other critics warn of safety risks from nearby earthquake faults and tons of spent nuclear fuel at the site, along with potential future costs that could land on ratepayers.

Ralph Cavanagh of the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the groups that negotiated and signed the agreement to close the plant by 2025, pointed to language in the bill that would allow PG&E to seek public dollars to pay for as-yet-unknown refurbishment costs for a longer operating run.

Cavanagh said it amounted to a risky “blank check” for the utility, and he said his group would oppose the deal.

He also pointed to language in the bill that states a longer run for the plant “may be necessary” to improve statewide power reliability, which he said backs up complaints from the NRDC and others that no detailed analysis has been done concluding that the reactors are needed beyond 2025. It also directs state utility regulators to conduct a study to determine if Diablo Canyon’s power is needed beyond that date.

The bill calls for extending the plant’s lifespan to improve reliability but “the study hasn’t been done yet” to support that, Cavanagh said.

The plant on the coast midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco produces 9% of the electricity for California’s nearly 40 million residents. The legislation also calls for a $1.4 billion forgivable loan for PG&E, and the state earlier set aside up to $75 million to extend operation of older power plants scheduled to close.

The debate has left PG&E in an awkward position, assessing the possibility of a longer run while simultaneously continuing to plan for closing and dismantling the plant as scheduled.

To keep the plant running, Newsom is trying to find a way to unspool the 2016 closure agreement agreed to by environmentalists, plant worker unions and the utility. The decision to close the plant also was endorsed by California utility regulators, the Legislature and then-Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown.

Legislators have complained about being bull-rushed at the end of the two-year session with a vastly complex plan, which is expected to be voted on by midweek.

State Sen. John Laird, a Santa Cruz Democrat whose district includes the plant, last week raised the possibility of the Legislature approving a stripped-down bill that would provide PG&E only with what is “absolutely necessary” for the utility to apply for federal funding.

To apply for the $6 billion federal program by a Sept. 6 deadline, Diablo Canyon needs state legislation to show it has a path to continue operations beyond its planned shutdown.

Laird said he is reviewing the compromise, but said it appears to meet many of his concerns, including a more aggressive schedule to develop renewables and setting a five-year cap on continued operations.

Even if it is approved, a summary of the compromise bill released by the state Public Advocates Office said state utility regulators could cancel the extended run at a later date if there is a lack of federal dollars, if capital needs climb above $1.4 billion or if enough new, zero-carbon power comes online to make the reactors unnecessary.

Laird declined to speculate on the bill’s chances of passage.

“Everybody is reading it and trying to make their individual decision,” he said.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Eviation's "Alice", the world's first all-electric commuter airplane, takes off for its first fligh...
Associated Press

Prototype electric airplane takes first flight

A prototype, all-electric airplane took its first flight Tuesday morning in central Washington state.
21 hours ago
Associated Press

Lawsuit demands San Francisco stop homeless camp sweeps

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Homeless people and their advocates sued the city of San Francisco on Tuesday, demanding that it stop harassing and destroying the belongings of people living on the streets with nowhere to go, and with the goal of forcing the city to spend billions of dollars on affordable homes that will keep […]
21 hours ago
Shigeru Imaizumi, a 96-year old graduate from Kenkoku University, points to himself in a school pho...
Associated Press

Imperial Japan university unites graduates decades after war

TOKYO (AP) — Growing up, Fumina Oka knew little about the mysterious university her Taiwanese grandfather attended in northern China’s Manchuria during Japan’s occupation in the early 20th century. But as the 28-year-old journalist studied the little-known Kenkoku University, she became fascinated about a place that started out as a grand piece of imperial propaganda […]
21 hours ago
A family walks through the rain in search of shelter after their home flooded when Hurricane Ian hi...
Associated Press

Cuba without electricity after hurricane hammers power grid

HAVANA (AP) — Hurricane Ian knocked out power across all of Cuba and devastated some of the country’s most important tobacco farms when it slammed into the island’s western tip as a major hurricane Tuesday. Cuba’s Electric Union said in a statement that work was underway to gradually restore service to the country’s 11 million […]
21 hours ago
Associated Press

UN official warns of conflict, more poverty in Afghanistan

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — A senior U.N. official warned Tuesday of a possible internal conflict and worsening poverty in Afghanistan if the Taliban don’t respond quickly to the needs of all elements of society, saying their crackdown on the rights of girls and women signals indifference to over 50% of Afghanistan’s population and a willingness […]
21 hours ago
Associated Press

Hawaii fines US Navy for unauthorized sewage release

HONOLULU (AP) — The Hawaii Department of Health said Tuesday it has fined the U.S. Navy $8.8 million for repeatedly discharging untreated or partially treated sewage into state waters from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. The department said in a news release that it recorded 766 counts of the Navy discharging pollutants in excess of limits […]
21 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
Governor, lawmakers debate longer run for California nukes