California extends nuclear use

After a period of recent climate-related turbulence in which the State has experienced considerable difficulties in regard to energy supply, California’s utilities regulator is betting on nuclear for the next few years.

The regulator has granted a five-year extension to operate Pacific Gas and Electric’s Diablo Canyon power plant, the state’s only nuclear facility, to avoid electricity shortages during extreme weather events.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved extended operations at the 2,240-megawatts Diablo Canyon plant’s two reactor units until 2029 and 2030, from 2024 and 2025, respectively.

PG&E can now keep Diablo Canyon running while it awaits a renewed federal operating license, and it must also keep the terms of its $1.4 billion loan agreement with California, the CPUC said in its decision.

PG&E applied on 7 November with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for the licence renewal, and had previously received approval to keep Diablo Canyon running during the relicensing period.

“Shortfalls could occur under climate-driven extreme events, including the extreme heat events California recently experienced in 2020 and 2022, and the risks are compounded if coincident wildfire risk reduced transmission capacity during peak events,” it added.

Critics of keeping open the plant, located next to the Pacific Ocean in San Luis Obispo County, say the region is vulnerable to earthquakes and that there is no permanent place for disposing of radioactive nuclear waste.