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For Immediate Release

Alex Formuzis –

DOE Throws PG&E Lifeline to Keep Aging Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant Operating

EWG: Extension may violate DOE’s own guidance


The U.S. Department of Energy is extending the deadline for Pacific Gas & Electric, or PG&E, to submit required documents for getting part of a $6 billion federal fund, in order to keep the aging Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant operating.

Two powerful nuclear industry lobby groups sent a letter this week to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm requesting the extension, which she granted two days later, according to Reuters. The decision throws a lifeline to the expensive and unsafe facility PG&E owns, which initially had until May 19 to apply for the funds, and now has until July 5.

But the lifeline may violate DOE guidance, which says only nuclear plants in states with deregulated energy can apply for a share of the $6 billion Civil Nuclear Credit Program, a fund designed to help nuclear reactors keep operating. Diablo Canyon is in California, which fully regulates utility power generation, so it shouldn't be eligible.

"Even by PG&E's own history of billion-dollar misguided spending sprees, throwing taxpayers' money away to keep the unsafe Diablo Canyon nuclear plant on life support has to be one of the worst," said EWG President and California resident Ken Cook.

"The residents of California have waited long enough to finally see this dangerous, decrepit facility closed for good," said Cook. "Letting PG&E continue to run the facility on the backs of taxpayers is a waste of scarce resources and only further delays moving the state and the nation toward a future of safe and abundant renewable electricity."

"Any chance PG&E can get to take money away from the people, they will," said Cook. "Just ask any one of the millions of captive ratepayers the company regularly smacks with increased monthly bills. Grabbing billions in taxpayer dollars to keep Diablo Canyon on the money-making side of the ledger is a no-brainer for PG&E."

DOE's decision comes after California Gov. Gavin Newsom told the Los Angeles Times editorial board in late April he was considering working with PG&E to delay indefinitely the company's plans to completely shutter Diablo Canyon in 2025.

A PG&E spokesperson said after Newsom's remarks that the utility is open to keeping Diablo Canyon operating - and federal funds risk allowing that to happen.

Here's why EWG is highly concerned about keeping this aging nuclear plant operating:

  • It will be costly
    • From 2011 to 2017, maintenance costs increased $110 million dollars.
    • The plant is known for harm to aquatic life from discharging hot water directly into the Pacific Ocean. Upgrading the cooling system to address these concerns could cost billions of dollars.
  • The plant is an extreme safety hazard
    • In 2014, a Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspector urged the NRC to shut the plant down due to earthquake hazard.
    • Unit 1 at the facility is considered one of the most embrittled units in the country - meaning that if the plant were forced to suddenly shut down, cold water would be sent to the core, where the highly radioactive fuel resides, causing the containment vessel to shatter, causing a catastrophic accident.

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