Contentious California nuclear plant can keep operating, federal regulators decide

California’s largest utility company can seek official permission to expand operations at its facilities while keeping its disputed nuclear power plant operating, federal regulators decided Thursday.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) exempted This will allow the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant to continue operating under its current license, and authorities are considering applications for its renewal.

Both Gov. Gavin Newsom (Democrat) and state legislators have argued for the extension as a reliable source of energy to support California’s transition to clean energy, but environmental groups have voiced their opposition to the plan. keeps going up.

Located about 25 miles southwest of San Luis Obispo along California’s Central Coast, Diablo Canyon began operations in 1985.

PG&E announced plans to decommission the facility in 2016 and decommission the reactor when the license expires. But after California enacted legislation this fall to allow it to continue operating, the utility moved to apply for license renewal.

Diablo’s two reactor licenses are set to expire in November 2024 and August 2025, respectively.

According to the regulator, the NRC exemption will allow these licenses to remain in effect while the regulator reviews the renewal application, provided PG&E files its request by the end of the year.

“The waivers are permitted by law, do not pose an undue risk to public health and safety, and are consistent with common defense and safety,” the NRC said in a statement.

“Continued operation of Diablo Canyon is in the public interest because of the serious problems with the reliability of California’s power grid,” the regulator added.

Throughout the update process, the NRC said it would maintain oversight “to ensure continued safe operations.” If the license renewal is granted, the regulator said it would allow the facility to continue operating for up to 20 years.

Paula Garfen, senior vice president and chief nuclear officer at PG&E, said: statement.

The journey aims to “improve the reliability of the statewide power system and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Gerfen continued.

“We are committed to a clean energy future for California,” she added.

The Diablo Canyon power plant, whose continued operation has drawn fierce opposition from environmental groups, got a lifeline when lawmakers passed a related law. SB846,The end of August.

The bill gave legislative approval for each unit to operate through the end of October 2029 and October 2030, respectively, pending license renewal by the NRC.

Earlier that month, Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, proposed extending the plant’s shelf life with the goal of maintaining a carbon-free and reliable electricity supply as the state transitions to renewable energy. Did.

Newsom, who visited the Diablo Canyon plant on Wednesday, emphasized the facility’s importance to California’s transition to clean energy.

“Extreme events caused by climate change are causing unprecedented stress on power grids, as we experienced during the record heatwave last September. statement.

“The Diablo Canyon Power Plant is critical to supporting energy reliability as it accelerates progress towards meeting clean energy and climate goals,” the governor added.

Here is the NRC’s decision to allow exemptions on Thursday: determination Earlier this week, the California Energy Commission said the state should keep power plants running through 2030 to support grid reliability.

Senator Diane Feinstein (Democrat) expressed her support He backed the NRC’s decision, stressing that “the next few years will be critical to California’s energy transition.”

In particular, Feinstein course change Last summer, he explained on the subject, “California leads the way in renewable energy, but we’re not there yet.”

“This decision will allow Diablo Canyon to act as a bridge to a clean energy future, allowing it to continue investing in renewable energy while maintaining a reliable, carbon-free source of electricity,” the senator said Thursday. said.

However, environmental activists denounced the NRC’s move as “unprecedented.” Joint statement.

The NRC has never approved a license renewal waiver that would allow reactors to exceed the 40-year legal threshold without a comprehensive review, the group said.

Diane Curran, lead attorney at San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace, said, “The NRC treats this exemption as a mere ‘administrative’ decision, as if it were choosing the size of a paper clip. is called.

“There is nothing ‘administrative’ about allowing this aging reactor duo to remain operational for days, months, or years.

“Public safety concerns were blatantly ignored by the NRC,” said Ken Cook, head of the Environmental Working Group, in what he described as “a reckless decision to bend the law for PG&E.” said about

“Federal agencies responsible for protecting public safety are currently only acting as consiglieres for the nuclear industry,” Cook added.

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