A Central Coast lawmaker has a new plan to keep California’s last operational nuclear power plant running — and possibly get bankrupt Pacific Gas and Electric Co. to sell the facility.
Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham, R-Templeton (San Luis Obispo County), on Wednesday proposed a state constitutional amendment that would designate nuclear power as a source of renewable energy. Two-thirds of each chamber in the Legislature would have to approve putting the amendment before voters.
It’s likely a long shot in a state that has turned away from nuclear energy, but the idea is to stop the closure of PG&E’s Diablo Canyon nuclear plant that is currently set to shutter in 2025. The plant, which provides about 9% of California’s electricity, is in Cunningham’s district.
Cunningham and two pro-nuclear organizations who support his amendment think its passage would make Diablo Canyon worth as much as $3.6 billion. Supporters say that prospect should be considered by PG&E and its bankruptcy judge, potentially opening the door for someone else to buy the plant and keep it running long past its scheduled closure date.
A statement from Cunningham’s office said prolonging the life of Diablo Canyon would help the state fulfill its climate goals and “provide ratepayers with a cheap and constant source of energy for decades to come.”
But John Geesman, an attorney for the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility, an anti-nuclear nonprofit, viewed the amendment as an attempt to prop up Diablo Canyon’s finances and said it had little chance of garnering the support it needs in the Legislature and electorate.
“That’s two mountains they’re probably incapable of climbing, realistically,” Geesman said.
He called opposition to nuclear power a “long-standing political fact” in California.
“The public just doesn’t want this stuff,” Geesman said.
PG&E spokeswoman Lynsey Paulo said the company would review the proposed amendment.
“PG&E is deeply committed to helping the state reach its clean energy goals in a way that manages costs for customers, ensures electric reliability and gas safety that they expect and deserve and creates a model program for others to follow,” she said.
Paulo called the existing plan to decommission the nuclear plant a “significant milestone in planning to meet California’s bold clean energy visions” and said PG&E would “continue to focus on safely running Diablo Canyon to the end of its current licenses.”
If passed, the amendment would make nuclear energy part of California’s renewables portfolio standard, which requires utilities to purchase certain amounts of clean power. The amendment would also bar the Legislature from enacting any future energy law that is not “technology neutral,” including with respect to large hydroelectric dams, which are also not currently classified as renewable.
“Future generations — and present ratepayers — deserve nothing less than an ‘all-of-the-above’ approach to fighting climate change,” Cunningham said in the statement from his office.