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Extending the life of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant could cost Californians $45 billion, a climate activist group has warned.
According to the Environmental Working Group, the number represents the costs of running the facility between this year and 2045 or later.
The Diablo Canyon nuclear power is slated for retirement in two years but the utility operating it, Pacific Gas & Electric, is seeking a 20-year extension of its life.
For now, California’s leadership appears only willing to grant a much shorter extension of the nuclear power plant’s life, until 2030. Governor Gavin Newsom even said keeping the plant open until 2030 was critical for California’s transition to wind and solar.
Not everyone agrees, however. Besides the Environmental Working Group, another activist organization is also challenging Diablo Canyon’s life extension. In April this year, the group, Friends of the Earth, filed a lawsuit at the San Francisco Superior Court to force the state government to stick to original plans to retire the nuclear plant in 2025.
The saga with Diablo Canyon is illustrative of the nuclear power conundrum of the energy transition. Nuclear energy is zero-emission once a plant begins operation, pretty much like wind and solar. However, there is a strong and vocal anti-nuclear lobby in transition circles that insist nuclear has no place in a renewable energy grid.
At the same time, there are many proponents of nuclear power who argue that the transition to net-zero will be impossible without a heavy leaning on nuclear, which, unlike wind and solar, is a dispatchable form of energy, like coal and gas.
Opponents’ main arguments are the risk of a reactor meltdown and the storage of waste fuel. Proponents’ arguments focus on a clean track record for U.S. nuclear power in terms of dangerous accidents, and advancements in waste fuel treatment and storage.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com