SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY, Calif. – The Department of Energy on Wednesday announced that it extended its deadline for its Civil Nuclear Credit program, giving nuclear power plants such as Diablo Canyon near Avila Beach more time to apply for funding that could help them avoid closuring.
Diablo Canyon is set to be decommissioned in 2025, but a coalition of scientists, academics, and advocates are fighting to keep it operational because it generated about 6% of the state's power last year.
The Civil Nuclear Credit program run under the Department of Energy allows owners and operators of nuclear power plants that are expected to shut down to apply for funding to keep the plants open longer. The Biden Administration allocated $6 billion for the program.
The application deadline was originally set for May 19, but was extended until July 5.
Before the deadline extension, Gov. Gavin Newsom said in an interview with the L.A. Times that the state would seek out a share of the federal funding to keep that option on the table. He said the state would "be remiss not to put that on the table as an option."
The qualifications for operators to apply are very detailed and the application process takes time, said Suzanne Hosn, spokeswoman for PG&E.
In order to give nuclear plant operators more time to apply for the funding, two groups – Nuclear Energy Institute and Edison Electric Institute – sent a letter to the Department of Energy in order to extend the Civil Nuclear Credit application deadline to allow more time for plant operators to apply.
“NEI, along with EEI, requested the extension for applications to the Civil Nuclear Credit program to provide the owners of plants facing closure and state policymakers additional time to consider options for preserving these essential sources of carbon-free, always-on power. These nuclear plants have generated reliable, clean energy for decades and can continue to be an important part of the energy mix to achieve a carbon-free economy," Maria Korsnick, president and CEO of NEI, told News Channel.
“Nuclear power generation is the largest source of carbon-free electricity in the country. Prematurely closing nuclear reactors will prevent us from achieving our climate goals, reduce air quality and negatively impact local economies.”
In a statement given to News Channel, a spokesperson from Newsom's office said that he does not have authority over Diablo Canyon's license.
"The governor is in support keeping all options on the table to ensure we have a reliable grid, especially as we head into a summer where CAISO expects California could have more demand than supply during the kind of extreme events that California has experienced over the past two summers," the spokesperson said.
"This includes considering an extension to Diablo Canyon which continues to be an important resource as we transition to clean energy."
However, PG&E said it is still assessing how Diablo Canyon would fit into the funding application.
"PG&E is still assessing how Diablo Canyon would fit into the program," Hosn told News Channel. "What this does is that it really gives us more time to evaluate the program."
Hosn added that, based on the rules of the program, PG&E would have to be the entity to apply for the funding instead of the state because PG&E is the current operator of Diablo Canyon.