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U.S. Department of Energy gives $1.1 billion grant to Diablo Canyon

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California's plan to keep Diablo Canyon Power Plant operating past 2025 got more good news on Nov. 21. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that it would award a $1.1 billion grant to PG&E to help it relicense the SLO County-based nuclear plant.

MONEY, MONEY, MONEY Diablo Canyon Power Plant received $1.1 billion from the federal government as part of a state and federal effort to relicense the plant. - FILE PHOTO COURTESY OF SLO COUNTY
  • FILE PHOTO COURTESY OF SLO COUNTY
  • MONEY, MONEY, MONEY Diablo Canyon Power Plant received $1.1 billion from the federal government as part of a state and federal effort to relicense the plant.

Funded by President Joe Biden's infrastructure law, the DOE allocated $6 billion over the next four years to support nuclear plants that are closing or in danger of closing across the country. PG&E, though, received the lone DOE grant in the program's first year—the feds rejected a second application from a shuttering nuclear plant in Michigan, according to Reuters.

In a statement, PG&E CEO Patti Poppe called the DOE grant a "very positive step forward to extend the operating life of Diablo Canyon Power Plant to ensure electrical reliability for all Californians."

"While there are key federal and state approvals remaining before us in this multi-year process, we remain focused on continuing to provide reliable, low-cost, carbon-free energy to the people of California, while safely operating one of the top performing plants in the country," Poppe said.

U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm added in a statement that nuclear power is the nation's "largest source of clean electricity" and will "help us meet President Biden's climate goals."

"With these historic investments in clean energy, we can protect these facilities and the communities they serve," Granholm said.

The DOE's nuclear grant program was a key piece of the state's recently hatched plan to buoy Diablo Canyon and extend its operating life to 2030. Citing fears about future blackouts and power shortages, state lawmakers signed off on sending PG&E a $1.4 billion loan, in hopes that DOE subsidies would eventually backfill it.

PG&E is currently in the process of working with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to try to relicense the plant's two reactors, which expire in 2024 and 2025. Regulators and Diablo watchdogs say the plant has extensive deferred maintenance to address. PG&E has said it plans to use the grant funds to complete whatever work is necessary to keep the plant running.

U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara) applauded the recent developments in a statement—framing the hopeful Diablo extension as a stopgap until offshore wind farms are developed off the coast of Morro Bay.

"In the face of record heat waves and a deepening climate crisis, there is too much at stake for us to move backward in the fight to fully transition California away from polluting fossil fuels," Carbajal said. "In the pursuit of that goal, our Central Coast community and I have understood the need to explore and support the safe and temporary extension of the lifespan of Diablo Canyon Power Plant." Δ

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