Diablo Canyon
The Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. Courtesy PG&E

The California Legislature ended its session with votes to keep the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant open until 2030 while doubling down on efforts to develop alternative sources of clean energy.

Senate Bill 846 to extend the giant plant’s life was approved by a vote of 31-1 in the state Senate on Wednesday and 69-3 in the Assembly early Thursday morning.

While nuclear power has been the target of criticism over safety concerns, it produces electricity without increasing carbon emissions. And keeping the state’s last nuclear power plant operating will help keep air-conditioners on during record heat waves like the current one.

Diablo Canyon accounts for about 9% of the state’s electricity and nearly 20% of its carbon-free power.

The plant had be scheduled to close in 2025, but operator Pacific Gas& Electric will now be eligible for a $1.4 billion federal loan to keep the plant online

“We thank Gov. Gavin Newsom for his leadership in recognizing the need to preserve California’s largest clean energy resource,” said the American Nuclear Society in a statement after the votes.

But the National Resources Defense Council criticized the action, saying “this rushed and costly bill is an effort to override a widely supported Diablo Canyon replacement agreement that the legislature endorsed almost unanimously just four years ago.”

The legislature also passes a series of bills earmarking $54 billion in spending over five years to fight climate change, with sharp new restrictions on oil and gas drilling and a mandate that California stop adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by 2045.

The spending includes $6.1 billion for electric school buses and other clean vehicles, $14.8 billion for transit and rail projects, more than $8 billion to clean up the state’s electric grid, $2.7 billion to fight wildfires and $2.8 billion in water programs to help the state deal with drought.
“The challenges of climate change are here, and this week, the Legislature took bold action to address these severe conditions, and mitigate future risk,” said Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins of San Diego.

“We established ambitious and necessary goals to reduce carbon emission and increase renewable energy. We provided the tools industry needs to capture and store carbon before it hits the atmosphere. And we invested in critical infrastructure programs that will keep us firmly planted on the path to a greener future, while simultaneously creating high-wage union jobs that will support families across the state,” she said.

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.