California Regulators Approve Extension for Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant Operations

California energy regulators voted on Thursday to allow the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant to continue operating for an additional five years, defying calls from environmental groups advocating for its closure.

The Public Utilities Commission of California has authorized an extension of the shutdown date for the state’s last operating nuclear power facility, pushing it to 2030 instead of the previously agreed-upon closure in 2025. 

Simultaneously, the Federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission will evaluate whether to extend the plant’s operating licenses.

Located halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, the twin reactors at Diablo Canyon have been in operation since the mid-1980s, contributing up to 9% of the state’s electricity on any given day.

This decision marks the latest chapter in a prolonged dispute over the safety and continued operation of the plant, located on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. 

In August, a state judge dismissed a lawsuit from Friends of the Earth seeking to block Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) from extending the plant’s lifespan. 

In October, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission rejected a request to shut down one of the two reactors immediately.

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Diablo Canyon’s Extended Operation and Rising Costs

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California energy regulators voted on Thursday to allow the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant to continue operating for an additional five years, defying calls from environmental groups advocating for its closure.

PG&E initially committed to closing Diablo Canyon by 2025 in 2016 but later altered its course under state direction, aiming for a more extended operational period. Diablo Canyon does not emit greenhouse gases, a factor contributing to its reconsideration.

Governor Gavin Newsom, previously an advocate for the plant’s closure, shifted his stance last year, emphasizing the need for Diablo Canyon’s power beyond 2025 to prevent potential blackouts during California’s transition to solar and renewable energy sources.

While the extension is seen by some as a pragmatic approach to ensure energy stability, critics, including environmental activists, strongly condemned the decision. 

Projected costs for continuing operations at the aging plant are expected to surpass $6 billion.

“This ill-conceived decision will further escalate financial strain on California ratepayers and extend the threat of a catastrophe at Diablo Canyon,” remarked Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group. 

He emphasized that with the state’s annual renewable energy additions surpassing Diablo Canyon’s output, there is no compelling reason to keep it operational.

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