LOS ANGELES (AP) — The California Legislature has less than three weeks to determine whether it will take the extraordinary step of trying to extend the life of California’s last operating nuclear power plant, a move that would be made mid looming questions about cost and who would pay and security risks in the event of an earthquake.

The legislative session closes on August 31 – when all business is adjourned – and only a rare special session called by Governor Gavin Newsom could provide a longer period to consider the move. The Democratic governor seen as a possible future White House candidate has urged operator Pacific Gas & Electric to pursue a longer run beyond a planned shutdown by 2025, warning that plant power is necessary to maintain reliable service as the state transitions to solar, wind and other renewable energy sources.

The administration is expected to make its case Friday at a three-hour California Energy Commission hearing focused on the state’s electricity needs in the age of climate change and the role the decades-old nuclear plant will play. could play a part in maintaining reliable electricity in the most populated regions of the country. State.

Those raising questions with Newsom include State Senator John Laird, a Democrat from Santa Cruz whose district includes the seaside factory located halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

With an extended run, “Who pays, and is there equity in who pays?” Laird asked in an interview. “Additional seismic faults were discovered near the plant and the seismic upgrades were never fully completed. Will they fix this problem? »

Laird pointed to other issues, including who would pay for maintenance that has been postponed because the plant is due to close by 2025; whether PG&E has time to order and receive additional radioactive fuel – and drums to store spent fuel – to continue operating; and would the electricity from the reactors impede the transmission of wind power that is expected to come online in the coming years.

Potentially, billions of dollars in costs could be at stake.

“I’m really waiting to see if…and how they address all the issues associated with a possible extension before deciding what I’m going to do,” Laird said, referring to a possible vote.

“We’re on a tight deadline,” Laird added. “That raises the question of whether they could do whatever it takes to have it extended by 2025?”

For Diablo Canyon, the question is whether the Newsom administration, in concert with investor-owned PG&E, can find a way to unravel a 2016 deal between environmentalists, plant workers’ unions and the utility. to close the plant by 2025. The joint decision to close the plant was also approved by California utility regulators, the legislature and then-Democratic Governor Jerry Brown.

PG&E CEO Patricia “Patti” Poppe told investors on a call last month that state legislation should be enacted by September to pave the way for PG&E to turn the tide.

PG&E, which has long claimed the plant is seismically safe, has not said much about whether it would push to extend operations beyond 2025. It is evaluating that possibility while continuing to plan to shut down and decommission the plant “unless these actions are superseded by new state policies,” PG&E spokeswoman Suzanne Hosn said in a statement.

Another major question is whether Newsom and the legislature might try to circumvent the regulatory agencies overseeing the plant, including the powerful California Coastal Commission. The plant’s massive cooling system relies on submerged seawater intake and discharge structures.

PG&E is also expected to obtain a new operating license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to operate beyond 2025.

With so many unanswered questions and so little time, “it’s rushed. It makes no sense,” said David Weisman, legislative director of the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, an advocacy group.

“The plant cannot operate one day longer than the NRC license,” which expires in August 2025, Weisman added.

Newsom’s push for longer reactor life doesn’t easily square with his assessment in 2016, when as lieutenant governor he backed the shutdown deal under the United States Land Commission. ‘State.

The seismic problems at the plant “are not trivial concerns”, he said at the time. “It’s not the preeminent site if you’re…concerned about seismic safety.”


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