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California Utility Regulators Vote to Conditionally Extend Nuclear Plant’s Operations

The California Public Utilities Commission on Dec. 14 voted to conditionally allow Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to extend operations at the utility’s Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant.

The current operating licenses for the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, Units 1 and 2, expire on Nov. 2, 2024, and Aug. 26, 2025, respectively. 

Diablo Canyon generates 2,200 megawatts of baseline electricity, providing approximately 17% of California's zero-carbon electricity supply and 8.6% of the state's total electricity supply.

The PUC’s decision directs and authorizes extended operations at Diablo Canyon until October 31, 2029 (Unit 1) and October 31, 2030 (Unit 2).

The PUC said its approval in the decision is subject to the following conditions:

  • The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission continues to authorize the plant’s operations;
  • The $1.4 billion loan agreement authorized by Senate Bill 846 is not terminated; and
  • The PUC does not make a future determination that Diablo Canyon’s extended operations are imprudent or unreasonable.

On September 2, 2022, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB 846 into law. Among other things, SB 846 allows for the potential extension of operations at Diablo Canyon beyond the current federal license retirement dates, up to five additional years, under specific conditions as provided.

On Nov. 7, 2023, PG&E filed a license renewal application with the NRC seeking to extend operations at its Diablo Canyon Power Plant.

In compliance with federal regulations, PG&E's license renewal application includes general, environmental, and technical information about the plant.

PG&E said that once the NRC determines whether the application is sufficient for its review, a multi-year evaluation process will begin. Under federal regulation, the plant will continue to operate until the NRC has taken final action on PG&E's application.

In its order, the PUC notes that additional processes are established for the Commission to continue to consider the prudence and cost-effectiveness of extended Diablo Canyo operations.

The decision also:

  • Allocates the costs and benefits of extended Diablo Canyon operations among all load-serving entities subject to the Commission’s jurisdiction;
  • Creates a new non-bypassable charge and associated processes to collect plant extended operations costs;
  • Establishes a new process to review and authorize Diablo Canyon extended operations costs; and
  • Provides further direction on the use of a surplus performance-based fee.
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