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Why Nuclear Proponents Are Already Declaring a 'Massive Victory' in California

AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

The Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, California's only nuclear power plant, was scheduled to shutter in 2025 after PG&E, under pressure from environmental groups, agreed in 2016 to close up shop and turn its attention toward developing more wind, solar, and other green technologies. But rolling blackouts and projected power shortages over the next few years have Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom thinking twice. 

During an interview with the Los Angeles Times editorial board, Newsom said his administration may leave the door open to keeping the nuclear plant running beyond its scheduled closure date. 

Newsom told the L.A. Times editorial board Thursday that the state would seek out a share of $6 billion in federal funds meant to rescue nuclear reactors facing closure, money the Biden administration announced this month. Diablo Canyon owner Pacific Gas & Electric is preparing to shutter the plant — which generated 6% of the state’s power last year — by 2025.

“The requirement is by May 19 to submit an application, or you miss the opportunity to draw down any federal funds if you want to extend the life of that plant,” Newsom said. “We would be remiss not to put that on the table as an option.”

He said state officials could decide later whether to pursue that option. And a spokesperson for the governor clarified that Newsom still wants to see the facility shut down long term. It’s been six years since PG&E agreed to close the plant near San Luis Obispo, rather than invest in expensive environmental and earthquake-safety upgrades.

But Newsom’s willingness to consider a short-term reprieve reflects a shift in the politics of nuclear power after decades of public opposition fueled by high-profile disasters such as Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, as well as the Cold War. (LA Times)

If it remains open, the decision would likely be supported by a plurality of California voters. A recent UC Berkeley poll found that 44 percent of Californians support building more nuclear reactors in the state, compared with 37 percent who didn't want any more.

Nuclear power remains one of America's most important clean sources of energy, "generating 19% of the country's electricity last year," according to the Times. 

Nuclear proponents cheered Newsom's changing tune. 

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