Statement: Diablo Canyon nuclear bailout bad news for environment, taxpayers

Media Contacts
California

National
Johanna Neumann

Senior Director, Campaign for 100% Renewable Energy, Environment America

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, November 21, 2022

FOR MORE INFORMATION: 

Laura Deehan, State Director, Environment California, 415-420-4710, [email protected]

Johanna Neumann, Senior Director of the Campaign for 100% Renewable Energy, 413-367-4794, [email protected]

Mark Morgenstein, Media Relations Director, 678-427-1671, [email protected]

Statement: Diablo Canyon nuclear bailout bad news for environment, taxpayers

Federal subsidies for aging nuclear plants better spent on energy efficiency, renewables

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The Biden administration awarded Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) $1.1 billion in federal funding Monday to keep California’s two remaining nuclear reactors at Diablo Canyon operating beyond their scheduled closure dates in 2024 and 2025, respectively. 

The funding announced by the Department of Energy (DOE) comes from the $6 billion Civil Nuclear Credit Program, designed to support U.S. nuclear reactors that would otherwise close for economic reasons. The program was created under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed in November 2021. After the program began earlier this year, California Gov. Gavin Newsom asked the DOE to let PG&E apply to keep two units at the Diablo Canyon Power Plant operating longer than planned. In response, the Energy Department rewrote the rules for its nuclear power bailout program, culminating in Monday’s commitment to send $1.1 billion to PG&E, the nation’s largest investor-owned utility. U.S. PIRG, Environment America and other members of the Green Scissors coalition panned nuclear credits as wasteful spending during the debate around the infrastructure bill. 

Diablo Canyon has been the only operational nuclear plant in California since 2013. In 2016, a brokered agreement with environmental groups including Environment California set the closure schedule for the facility’s two reactor units. However, recent actions by the governor and state legislature have thrown that timeline into question. On October 31, the utility formally asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to extend Diablo Canyon’s license to 2030. 

In June 2022, the Diablo Canyon Independent Safety Committee detailed the difficulties of prolonging the operating life of the plant this close to the planned closure. 

In response, Environment California’s State Director Laura Deehan said:

“We need to get our priorities straight. It’s disappointing to see the federal government throw PG&E more than a billion in taxpayer dollars for an outdated and potentially dangerous power source, when cleaner, safer and more affordable energy solutions exist. This is a poster child for sending good money after bad.

Taxpayers shouldn’t prop up aging nuclear plants while common-sense energy efficiency programs, such as the Weatherization Assistance program, get only a fraction of the federal support. Instead of putting Diablo Canyon back on life support, dependent on a drip of taxpayer subsidies, California should turn a new leaf and lean into building the electric system of the future. Our state and our nation need to be laser-focused on building an efficient energy system powered by renewable sources such as the sun, the wind and the heat of the earth. 

“And, safety first. Certainly, before Diablo Canyon’s license is extended, PG&E must complete the significant upgrades needed to ensure the reactor operates as safely as possible.”

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