Governor Gavin Newsom, a consumate politician, finally is willing to declare his support for Diablo Canyon, something he has long refused to do. As the L.A. Times reports in an article titled California promised to close its last nuclear plant. Now Newsom is reconsidering, Newsom has chosen to come out publicly with support for saving Diablo Canyon. It is doubtful that Newsom has suddenly “seen the light” about nuclear. More likely, he’s seen recent polling showing that a majority of Democrats and Republican understand the importance of nuclear power for addressing the goal of reliable clean energy in the absence of fossil fuels.
It appears that Governor Newsom is now working to delay the closure of Diablo Canyon. While this will disappoint his fossil fuel donors and those touting renewables (which is a majority of environmental organizations of all stripes), it is definitely the right thing to do.
There are numerous reasons for Newsom having finally found the political will to disrupt what many in California consider a settled matter. As the article mentions, the reality is that shutting Diablo would cause the forthcoming energy shortages that are already projected to be far worse. Back in August 2020, hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses lost power during some of the hotest and smokiest days of the year, and the state narrowly avoided even worse blackouts a few weeks later. Now CALISO is projecting increased grid fragility going forward, even without shuttering Diablo Canyon, given increasing heat waves, more aggressive forest fires and reduced hydropower supply, as a result of California’s extended drought.
Additionally, the DOE recently announced their Civil Nuclear Credit program and are now dangling some $6 billion that is earmarked for at-risk nuclear power plants. Gavin recognizes that such funds could help underwrite some face-saving upgrades to the plant, possibly even to the once-through-cooling (OTC) system, the imposed costs of which by the State Water Resources Board were ostensibly the basis for PG&E finally giving up on their plan to re-license the plant.
Then there the small matter of the upcoming election and a Democratic primary where the leading contenders for Gavin’s place on the ticket were nearly all expressing strong pronuclear positions and calling Gavin out for his apparent retrograde or donor-induced political ignorance of climate science.
Needless to say, that the joint Stanford/MIT report providing evidence that closing Diablo Canyon would cost the state $21 billion, which was followed by a pronuclear rally in San Luis Obispo, itself followed by the very public letter from 79 high-level scientists, academics and business leader urging Governor Newsom to protect this existing (and paid for) asset, was a triple punch that probably alarmed everyone that he was being seen as being on the wrong side of science.
While the article suggests that Newsom is simply in process of “reconsidering,” in fact the word on the street is that a deal has been done to preserve Diablo Canyon, although what that is remains unknown, as no information has yet been officially issued. Needless to say, these are very encouraging signs. Nucleation Capital supports protecting Diablo Canyon, Michigan’s Palisades plant and other at-risk plants.
Read the L.A. Times article, California promised to close its last nuclear plant. Now Newsom is reconsidering, by Sammy Roth, April 29, 2022 here. To learn more about what you can do to support Diablo Canyon, see the Save Diablo Canyon campaign at Climate Coalition.