Text circulated to California lawmakers by Governor Gavin Newsom says continued operation of the state's only nuclear power plant for an additional five to ten years is critical to ensure energy system reliability and minimise greenhouse gas emissions. It would authorise a loan of up to USD1.4 billion to extend the plant's operating lifetime.

(Image: Office of Governor Gavin Newsom)

Proposals circulated to the state legislature by the governor include establishing a legally binding goal for California to achieve statewide carbon neutrality by 2045 at the latest, more stringent emission 2020 reduction targets, establishing pathways to a clean energy future and advancing efforts to remove carbon pollution by setting up a regulatory framework for carbon removal and carbon capture, utilisation and sequestration and developing carbon removal targets.

"Cleaning the air we breathe. Protecting our communities from the harmful impacts of the oil industry. Accelerating California’s clean energy future. Each of these actions on their own are monumental steps to tackling the climate crisis - but California isn’t waiting a minute longer to get them done. We’re taking all of these major actions now in the most aggressive push on climate this state has ever seen because later is too late," Newsom said after circulating urgent proposals addressing climate change with the state legislature.

A copy of the draft legislative language was shared with US media sources including the Los Angeles Times and CNBC.

Diablo Canyon's two pressurised water reactors currently supply some 17% of California's zero-carbon electricity supply and 8.6% of its total electricity supply, the draft notes, but are scheduled to be retired in 2024 and 2025. However, it says, the impacts of climate change are occurring "sooner and with greater intensity and frequency than anticipated," causing unprecedented stress on California's energy system. Continued operations of Diablo Canyon for an additional five to ten years is therefore critical to ensure energy system reliability and minimise greenhouse gas emissions while additional renewable energy resources come online and until they can meet demand, it says. "Accordingly, it is the policy of the Legislature that extending the Diablo Canyon power plant's operations for a renewed license term is prudent, cost-effective, and in the best interests of all California electricity customers."

Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) in August 2016 announced plans to retire the plant at the end of its current operating licences, with unit 1 to shut in November 2024 and unit 2 in August 2025. However, calls have been increasing for the closure to be reconsidered to help the state reach its decarbonisation goals, and earlier this year Newsom asked the US Department of Energy to amend the eligibility criteria for federal funding to support the continued operation of under-threat US nuclear plants to enable Diablo Canyon to apply.

Speaking at PG&E's quarterly earnings call at the end of July, CEO Patti Poppe confirmed that Newsom had asked the company to look into keeping the plant open beyond its scheduled retirement, but warned that this would not be an "easy option", requiring coordination between the state, multiple regulatory bodies and PG&E as well as others.

"This is not an easy option. Legislation will have to be passed. The permitting and relicensing of the facility is complex and so there's a lot of hurdles to be overcome in order to move forward," she said. New legislation would likely need to be passed by the legislature in time to be signed by the governor in September to make the necessary changes to the permitting and relicensing timeline, she added. "And so that really drives an important deadline for us. And in addition to the fact that we need to order casks and the fuel and so given that the combination of that timing really does drive the decision-making."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News

Date: Wednesday, 17 August 2022
Original article: world-nuclear-news.org/Articles/California-governor-proposes-legislation-to-keep-D