Possible Extension Of California Nuclear Power Plant’s Operation Gets Closer Look

August 29, 2022

by Paul Ciampoli
APPA News Director
August 29, 2022

A California Senate Committee on Aug. 25 held a hearing on the possible extension of the operation of the Diablo Canyon Power Plant (DCPP), California’s only remaining operating nuclear power plant.

The hearing was held by the California Senate’s Committee on Energy, Utilities and Communications.

In June 2016, California investor-owned utility PG&E said it planned to retire Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in California under a joint proposal with labor and environmental groups. The California Public Utilities Commission in 2018 signed off on a request by PG&E that it be allowed to retire the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant by 2025. The two units at Diablo Canyon together produce approximately 2,300 net megawatts of power.

A background memo prepared for the hearing by the California Senate Committee noted that in late April of this year, California Governor Gavin Newsom commented on the possibility of extending operations of the DCPP, as well as natural gas plants that like DCPP are subject to retirement due to State Water Board regulations regarding once-through-cooling facilities that impacts ocean water and marine life.

“Since then, there have been a number of news reports and a Joint Agency Workshop as recent as two weeks ago to discuss the need, option, and hurdles to extending operation of DCPP,” the memo noted. “The Newsom Administration has noted the opportunity to secure federal funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s implementation of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, specifically a pending September 6th application deadline for currently operating nuclear facilities.”

Newsom recently proposed to extend operations of the DCPP.

In a presentation at the hearing, Ana Matosantos, cabinet secretary to Newsom, said that the DCPP proposal creates the conditions for an extension of Diablo Canyon “for the shortest amount of time necessary to be able to maintain the goal of reliability and continuing to move forward on our transition.” She said that proposed extension is for a five-year period with the possibility of revisiting that duration.

Maureen Zawalick, Vice President of Decommissioning and Technical Services at Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), said at the hearing that an extension of the nuclear plant would require a number of federal and state regulatory approvals.

“There are also some critical near-term activities we would have to quickly undertake to make a viable option for the state including funding, fuel purchasing and used fuel management,” she said. “The fuel purchasing and used fuel management take about an 18 month to two-year lead time. And we also need to be ramping up a project team to support the NRC license renewal application.”

Other witnesses at the hearing included Hunter Stern, Business Representative, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 1245; Ralph Cavanagh, energy Program Co-Director, Natural Resources Defense Council; Bruce Gibson, Supervisor, Chair of the Board, County of San Luis Obispo; Kim Delfino, Representative, Defenders of Wildlife and the California Coastal Protection Network and Mark Toney, Executive Director, The Utility Reform Network.

Meanwhile, a group of California lawmakers this month unveiled a proposal that “would reject Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to extend the lifespan of the state’s last operating nuclear power plant — and instead spend over $1 billion to speed up the development of renewable energy, new transmission lines and storage to maintain reliable power in the climate change era,” the Associated Press reported.

California mayors send letter to Newsom

Also this month, the mayors representing nine cities on California’s Central Coast sent a joint letter to Newsom on Monday sharing policies that they are requesting Newsom include in any legislation that explores the extension of Diablo Canyon Power Plant’s operations.

Officials said that the goal of the letter is to help shape the legislation with a set of guiding principles that include, among other things, ensuring the safe operation of the power plant, limiting the term of the extension and tying it to making sure the state has enough renewable energy and battery storage to replace the power plant when the license extension expires and finding a safe solution for the long-term storage of the spent fuel that is currently being stored at DCPP.

The letter is available here.

Ariz. Public Power And Cooperative Groups Urge PG&E To Extend Nuclear Plant’s Operating Life

In a June 2022 letter to Patricia Poppe, CEO of PG&E, officials with the Irrigation & Electrical Districts’ Association of Arizona (IEDA), the Arizona Municipal Power Users’ Association (AMPUA) and the Grand Canyon State Electric Cooperative Association (GCSECA) made the case for extending the life of the California nuclear power plant Diablo Canyon Power Plant past its existing license.

The letter was signed by Ed Gerak, executive director of IEDA, AMPUA’s Russell Smoldon, and Dave Lock, CEO of GCSECA.

“While we understand that the history of the plant is long and complicated, we hope that you will agree that the benefits of extending the operating license outweighs the cons,” they wrote.