California’s last nuclear plant is too vital to shut down

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In summary

As California struggles to keep the lights on, compromise legislation, if passed, will keep the state’s only remaining nuclear power plant operating.



When California voters recalled the then governor. Gray Davis in 2003, a year after granting him a second term, they established a new political principle: governors must, regardless of the political or financial cost, avoid blackouts.

Pretty much or not, Davis was blamed when blackouts hit the state in early 2003 due to a botched overhaul of utility regulations.

That’s why, despite his insistence that California will lead the world in converting to an all-electric, zero-emissions society, Governor Gavin Newsom wants to extend the operations of some gas-fired power plants that had been tagged for closure and – most ironically – California’s only remaining nuclear power plant, which was slated to close in 2025.

The state’s shift to wind and solar power hasn’t kept pace with demand, especially during increasingly frequent heat waves, and we’ve teetered on the brink of power outages on particularly hot days. hot. Shutting down gas generators and the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant – the latter providing about 9% of the state’s electrical supply – would make outages very likely.

Newsom’s proposal to extend the life of these vital resources has unsurprisingly drawn opposition from environmentalists, threatening to scuttle his energy plan in the final days of the 2022 legislative session, which is due to end at midnight Wednesday. .

However, intensive negotiations behind the scenes appear to have produced results. Late Sunday, a compromise measure to keep Diablo Canyon running for at least five more years was introduced, just hours before the constitutional deadline. He says expanding Diablo Canyon’s operations “is prudent, cost-effective, and in the best interest of all California electricity customers.”

The legislation, Senate Bill 846, cuts the extended 10-year operation that Newsom sought and contains other provisions to appease environmental critics, such as calling for intense efforts to bring more energy online. non-nuclear and carbon-free. However, it also needs a two-thirds vote for the plant’s owner, Pacific Gas and Electric, to meet an impending federal deadline for seeking federal funds to fund extended operations.

Lobbyists working on the issue believe Senate approval is certain, as the senator who represents the Diablo Canyon site in San Luis Obispo County, John Laird, appears to agree. Assembly approval is a little less certain as the issue is caught up in a fierce leadership battle, pitting Speaker Anthony Rendon against him, who says he will seek another term when the Legislative Assembly meets again in December. , against MP Robert Rivas.

Learn more about the lawmakers mentioned in this story

State Senate, District 17 (Monterey)

State Senate, District 17 (Monterey)

District 17 Demographics

Race/Ethnicity

latin

33%

White

54%

Asian

8%

Black

2%

Multi-race

3%

Voting register

Dem

48%

G.O.P.

24%

no party

22%

Other

5%

Campaign Contributions

Senator John Laird took at least
$1 million
from Work
sector since he was elected to the Legislative Assembly. This represents
31%
of his total campaign contributions.

State Assembly, District 63 (Lakewood)

State Assembly, District 63 (Lakewood)

How he voted 2019-2020

Liberal
Conservative

District 63 Demographics

Race/Ethnicity

latin

76%

White

ten%

Asian

6%

Black

seven%

Multi-race

1%

Voting register

Dem

56%

G.O.P.

14%

no party

24%

Other

6%

Campaign Contributions

Asm. Anthony Rendon took at least
$2.8 million
from Work
sector since he was elected to the Legislative Assembly. This represents
27%
of his total campaign contributions.

State Assembly, District 30 (Salinas)

State Assembly, District 30 (Salinas)

How he voted 2019-2020

Liberal
Conservative

District 30 Demographics

Race/Ethnicity

latin

68%

White

23%

Asian

5%

Black

2%

Multi-race

2%

Voting register

Dem

52%

G.O.P.

20%

no party

23%

Other

6%

Campaign Contributions

Asm. Robert Rivas took at least
$529,000
from Work
sector since he was elected to the Legislative Assembly. This represents
18%
of his total campaign contributions.

Although the legislation will keep Diablo Canyon online for at least five years, it is highly likely to be extended as it is highly unlikely that enough alternative power will be available by 2030.

The situation is saturated with irony. California once predicted that nuclear power plants would become one of its main sources of energy for a rapidly growing population. Two big ones, Diablo Canyon and San Onofre in Southern California, have been built, joined by a middle one, Rancho Seco, near Sacramento. PG&E also built a relatively small nuclear bomb near Eureka, using a version of factories used in submarines and aircraft carriers.

Official policy turned against nuclear power in the 1970s with the government of the day. Jerry Brown as Leader of the Opposition. He signed legislation blocking new nuclear weapons unless the problem of nuclear waste storage was solved, and in 1978 his administration killed a power plant project on the Colorado River near Blythe called Sundesert.

One by one, the state’s existing nukes were shut down, leaving only Diablo Canyon to still generate juice, but it too was shut down until Newsom and other officials were faced with the reality that if its closure would cause blackouts, Californians would be ruthless.

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