Nuclear power in California received financial support from the Biden administration on Monday as the U.S. Department of Energy awarded a $1.1 billion grant to Pacific Gas & Electric to help extend life from its Diablo Canyon power plant on California’s central coast.
The Diablo plant was to be decommissioned in two phases, one in 2024 and another in 2025, which Governor Gavin Newsom has worked to avoid as California’s power grid has been strained in recent years by d intense heat waves and destructive forest fires.
The federal grant doesn’t guarantee the plant will stay open beyond 2025, but it does “create a path forward for Diablo Canyon to stay open,” the DOE said in a news release.
The conditional grant, pending negotiation and finalization by the DOE, is a significant payout of the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that Biden signed last November. The legislation aims to invest in repairing and upgrading America’s infrastructure, including its roads, bridges, internet and power grid, among other projects.
Monday’s announcement marks the first funds to be disbursed under the law’s civilian nuclear credit program, according to the DOE statement, which “supports the continued operation of safe and reliable nuclear power facilities, preserving thousands of well-paying clean energy jobs while avoiding carbon.” emissions.
The plant expansion will save 1,500 jobs, according to the department.
The program “prioritized reactors facing the most imminent threat of shutdown,” the department said. The second cycle will target reactors scheduled to be shut down for economic reasons within the next four years.
The funding is a boon not only to PG&E, but also to Newsom, which has been pushing for the Diablo plant to stay online to help stabilize the state’s power grid with zero-emission electricity.
In a sweeping climate and clean energy bill Newsom signed in September, California state lawmakers voted to keep the Diablo plant open until at least 2030. possibility of federal support.
Newsom said in a press release that the investment “provides an on-ramp for more clean energy projects to come online.”
“Amid intensifying climate impacts in the West and across the country, California is focused on meeting our bold climate and clean energy goals while tackling weather challenges. extremes that put lives at risk and strain our network,” Newsom said.
According to the DOE, Diablo Canyon produces about 15% of the state’s carbon-free energy. More broadly, the DOE said, nuclear currently provides 50% of the country’s carbon-free electricity, “but changing energy markets and other economic factors” have forced the closure of 13 commercial nuclear plants. since 2013. These closures have led to global warming. emissions and deteriorating air quality in communities around these older reactors, the DOE said.
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm called nuclear the nation’s “greatest source of clean electricity,” adding that “nuclear power will help us meet President Biden’s climate goals.”
President Joe Biden has set a goal of halving the country’s global warming emissions by the end of the decade.
Some environmental groups have opposed keeping the nuclear plant open, arguing that it would cost too much and could have significant environmental impacts.
Continuing to operate the plant beyond its planned 2025 shutdown date “exposes surrounding communities and the environment to serious risk while potentially costing ratepayers and ratepayers billions of dollars,” the president of Taxpayers said. Friends of the Earth, Erich Pica, in a press release. past.
Yet other groups cheered the bill’s passage.
Clean Air Task Force Chairman Armond Cohen called the continued operation of the nuclear plant a “victory for climate action, a victory for California and a victory for the broader effort to address climate change.” realities of decarbonization and grid resilience”.
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