California lawmakers vote to keep Diablo Canyon online

01 September 2022

As California declares an extreme heat emergency its legislators have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a bill that will enable the state's only nuclear power plant to remain in operation for up to five years longer than currently planned.

Pro-Diablo Canyon campaigners in California were active right up to the late-night votes (Image: @ParisOrtizWines)

The California Assembly passed Senate Bill 846 (SB846) by 69 votes to three in the closing hours of the legislative session which ended on 31 August. The bill then returned to the Senate - where it originated - for the final vote needed to see it passed for signature to Governor Gavin Newsom. Thirty-one senators voted in favour of the bill, with one vote cast against it.

On the same day the legislature passed SB846, California declared a State of Emergency with a significant heat wave bringing temperatures in excess of 100°F (38°C) and putting a significant demand and strain on California's energy grid. The California Independent System Operator has asked consumers to reduce electricity use between 4pm and 9pm on 31 August and 1 September, saying: "That is the most critical time on the grid, because solar production is going offline, but temperatures remain high." It said it expected to issue more alerts over the coming weekend, as the excessive heat continues.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) in 2016 proposed to retire Diablo Canyon when the pressurised water reactor units reached the end of their current operating licences, in 2024 for unit 1 and 2025 for unit 2. 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.

Newsom had previously supported the closure of Diablo Canyon, but earlier this year asked the US Department of Energy (DOE) to change eligibility criteria under its USD6 billion programme to support the continued operation of US nuclear reactors under threat of premature closure to enable Diablo Canyon to apply. The DOE also extended the deadline to 6 September to give potential applicants sufficient time to prepare submissions for the federal support.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News