On Monday, the Biden administration revealed preliminary clearance to spend up to $1.1 billion to support the continued operation of California's lone nuclear power plant, despite officials rejecting a request for financial support to revive a shuttered nuclear plant in Michigan.
The Diablo Canyon Power Plant, located on the central coast of California, will continue to operate, according to a statement from the Energy Department, with specific arrangements still to be negotiated and agreed upon. The plant, whose closure was slated for 2025, was picked for the first round of finance under the administration's new civil nuclear credit program, which is designed to assist nuclear power reactor owners or operators who are in financial trouble.
The initiative is a part of Biden's initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming by 50% from 2005 levels by 2030.
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm stated in a statement that "this is a key step toward guaranteeing that our domestic nuclear fleet will continue supplying reliable and cheap power to Americans as the nation's largest source of clean electricity."
The Energy Department rejected the Palisades nuclear plant's request for financing to restart operations, which led to the funding's approval. The facility by Lake Michigan was shut down last spring after more than 50 years of producing electricity.
Before becoming the secretary of energy, Granholm served as governor of Michigan for two terms. A spokesperson stated on Monday that Granholm's time as governor had no bearing on the choice.
Gretchen Whitmer, the Democratic governor of Michigan, assembled a coalition to create a plan that would have reactivated a dormant nuclear reactor for the first time in American history. Whitmer "will continue competing to bring home revolutionary projects producing thousands of good-paying jobs to our state in the auto, chip, battery, and clean energy industries," according to spokesperson Bobby Leddy, despite the little setback.
Holtec International, the company that owns Palisades, stated that they were fully aware that trying to restart a nuclear facility that had been shut down would be difficult and novel for the nuclear sector.
The $6 billion initiative to save nuclear power plants at risk of closure was started by the Biden administration in April, citing the need to maintain nuclear energy as a carbon-free source of power that aids in combating climate change.
Approximately 20% of the country's electricity, or nearly 50% of its carbon-free energy, is produced by nuclear power. The federal government's main investment in rescuing financially troubled nuclear plants is the bailout program.
The majority of nuclear power reactors in the US were built between 1970 and 1990, and operating the fleet of elderly units is becoming more expensive. In 28 U.S. states, there are 53 commercial nuclear power plants with 92 nuclear reactors.
The government funding will be used to repay a loan from the state of California to support prolonging operations at the plant and lowering prices for customers, according to PG&E, which runs Diablo Canyon. According to PG&E spokesperson Suzanne Hosn, more federal and state permits are still needed for the plant's license to be renewed and for it to continue operating after 2025.
According to Hosn, PG&E is continuing to plan for the eventual decommissioning of the facility while also taking steps to seek re-licensing. 9% of the electricity used in the state is generated at the coastal facility halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The operation of Diablo Canyon beyond 2025, according to California Governor Gavin Newsom, is "essential to ensuring statewide energy system reliability" as the energy infrastructure is under stress from climate change.
To prevent potential blackouts as the state switches to solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources, Newsom signed legislation in September allowing the plant to continue operating for California additional five years.
On Monday, Newsom expressed his gratitude to the federal government for its "essential support" and expressed his eagerness to collaborate with it to "create a clean, affordable and reliable energy future."
According to a statement from Newsom, "This investment paves the way for a short-term extension of the Diablo Canyon Power Plant to sustain reliability statewide and provide an onramp for other clean energy projects to come online."
Environmentalists and other detractors raise concerns about the site's massive amount of spent nuclear fuel, as well as safety issues posed by the adjacent seismic faults and potential ratepayer expenditures in the future. The Biden administration's "misguided" choice to leave outdated, crumbling nuclear plants open, according to the nonprofit advocacy group Environmental Working Group, sets a hazardous precedent.
Ken Cook, president of EWG and a citizen of California, suggested that investing in energy storage technologies and clean, secure, renewable sources of electricity would be a better use of taxpayer funds.
Through fiscal 2031, or until the $6 billion is depleted, the Energy Department intends to accept yearly applications for the civil nuclear credit program. Owners or operators of nuclear plants may bid on credits to get funding to continue operations. Plant owners or operators must demonstrate that the reactors are expected to retire due to economic factors and that emissions will rise to qualify.
Reactors that have already indicated plans to close were given priority in the first round. According to the Energy Department, more economically risky facilities will be eligible for the second round. The initiative's funding came from President Joe Biden's $1 trillion infrastructure law.
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