Gov. Gavin Newsom has opened up about extending the operation of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, according to multiple reports, despite previous opposition. That is a positive development. We encourage the Governor to resist ideological or special interest pressure to close the facility, which provided 6% of California’s power last year.
Six years ago, Pacific Gas and Electric, which owns and operates the plant, agreed to close Diablo Canyon by 2025.
According to the Associated Press, PG&E stated at the time that the decision to close Diablo Canyon was made as part of an agreement with environmental and labor groups, and PG&E said its decision was due to “recognition that California’s new energy policies will significantly reduce the need for Diablo Canyon’s electricity production.
But fast-forwarding to today, it’s clear that Diablo Canyon’s carbon-free energy remains as needed as ever as the state continues its long and costly march toward a green future.
“The governor supports keeping all options on the table to ensure we have a reliable (electric) grid,” spokeswoman Erin Mellon told the Associated Press last Saturday. “This includes considering an extension to Diablo Canyon, which continues to be an important resource as we transition to clean energy.”
Newsom reportedly suggested that PG&E pursue a share of the $6 billion in federal funds the Biden administration is making available to keep nuclear power plants open.
It’s a bit of a setback for Newsom, who supported the closure of Diablo Canyon and remains opposed to nuclear power in the long run because of the unresolved issue of nuclear waste.
But his new opening to keep Diablo Canyon open is a sensible approach.
Last year, researchers from Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that keeping Diablo Canyon open through 2035 would reduce the state’s “energy sector carbon emissions” by more than 10 percent from 2017 levels and would reduce reliance on gas, save $2.6 billion on power system. costs and bolster system reliability to mitigate blackouts.”
The researchers further noted that if the facility were combined with a desalination facility and a hydrogen plant, the benefits would be even more pronounced.
Doing this would not only provide huge amounts of water, but also “produce clean hydrogen to meet the growing demand for carbon-free fuels, at a cost of up to 50% less than hydrogen produced from solar and wind power, with a much smaller land footprint. ”
These are ideas that deserve nonpartisan discussion. The issues at hand—energy and water—are practical issues about which all sensible approaches should openly consider.
While what to do from here is ultimately up to PG&E, with the governor’s resistance to the plant now out of the way, keeping the plant open makes sense.