The decision by the California legislature to pass a bill that will enable the state’s only remaining nuclear power plant to continue operation until 2030 has been greeted as the right choice for the state.
“This is great news,” World Nuclear Association Director General Sama Bilbao y Léon said. “Diablo Canyon will continue to supply clean, cost-effective and reliable electricity to the people of California. As well as building new nuclear capacity, we need to maximise the contribution of our existing nuclear reactors worldwide if we are going to tackle the dual challenges of climate change and the current global energy supply crisis.”
US Department of Energy Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Kathryn Huff said she was “extremely pleased” to see the operation of Diablo Canyon extended. “These reactors critically underpin our nation’s decarbonisation goals and their 24/7 power will support grid stability for consumers in the state during our transition to net zero,” she said.
American Nuclear Society (ANS) President Steven Arndt and CEO and Executive Director Craig Piercy, who previously wrote to members of the California legislature urging a quick passage of the bill, said the passage of Senate Bill 846 would “keep California’s lights on”.
“Amid a scorching heatwave that is threatening blackouts, California’s lawmakers made the right choice in preserving California’s largest and most reliable clean energy source, Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant,” they said.
“Keeping Diablo Canyon online beyond 2025 will safeguard California’s clean energy transition by shoring up California’s power grid with an always-on and affordable source of dispatchable clean baseload electricity, generated by nuclear energy.”
As well as thanking legislators, the ANS also paid tribute to “environmentalist and labour allies, grassroots nuclear supporters, and California ANS members for their hard work and success in saving Diablo Canyon.”
Passage of the bill underscores nuclear’s essential role in achieving a reliable, affordable and carbon-free energy transition, said Maria Korsnick, president and CEO of the Nuclear Energy Institute. Extending operation of Diablo Canyon will help California reach its climate goals and ensure a reliable clean energy workhorse continues to serve residents. “Through effective policymaking, the nation’s largest source of carbon-free power can continue to serve the state with affordable clean energy, while ensuring the long-term, highly skilled jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenues to California communities,” she said.
“California’s decision to preserve its current nuclear capacity mirrors actions we have seen around the country and around the world as governments recognise the critical role nuclear plays in decarbonising both the electric sector and entire economies.”
The California Public Utilities Commission in 2018 approved a proposal from Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) to retire Diablo Canyon unit 1 in 2024 and unit 2 in 2025, when the pressurised water reactor units reached the end of their current operating licences. SB846 will allow the units to operate for up to five years beyond that, acting as a bridging technology to ensure a reliable energy system and reduce greenhouse gas emissions until additional renewable and zero-carbon energy sources come online. It also includes a USD1.4 billion loan to PG&E. The bill was passed by the California Assembly by 69 votes to three and by the state’s Senate by 31 votes to one in a late-night at the end of the legislative session on 31 August.