Governor Gavin Newsom questions nuclear phase-out

Kalifornia’s democratic governor Gavin Newsom questions the shutdown of the last remaining nuclear power plant in the American state. Previously, the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant was scheduled to be decommissioned in 2025. Newsom made the change of course public in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. This is related to a federal government funding program. Washington is providing $6 billion to prevent the premature closure of nuclear power plants. The operators must submit applications for funding by May 19 in order to be able to benefit from the grants.

“We would be remiss if we didn’t explore that option,” Newsom told the Los Angeles Times. The American federal government sees its support program as a central measure in the fight against climate change. nuclear power plants contribute almost 20 percent of the electricity produced in the USA and thus more than the other climate-friendly energy sources solar energy (3 percent), wind (8.5 percent) and hydropower (6.5 percent).

93 reactors in the US

Diablo Canyon is the last remaining nuclear power plant in California, contributing 6 percent of the state’s energy needs. The energy company PG&E had contacted the government in California, environmental organizations and unions agreed to shut down six years ago instead of paying for expensive upgrades. Environmental organizations have been up in arms against nuclear power plants for decades. The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station was closed in 2012, and the Rancho Seco Nuclear Power Plant was shut down in 1989.

Last week, the Federal Secretary of Energy, Jennifer Granholm, California, visited, among other things, the decommissioned reactor in San Onofre. In the United States, 93 reactors are still operating. Some are threatened with closure due to opposition from environmental organizations.

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More importantly, in some states, deregulation of the electricity markets has made it no longer viable to operate. Electricity from gas-fired power plants has long been significantly cheaper in the United States, and there is also electricity from cheaper renewable energy sources. Operators can now receive subsidies if they can prove that the reactors will become and remain economical after such a cash injection. In addition, rising gas prices have recently improved the economics of nuclear power plants.

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Success of the push uncertain

California’s governor is apparently following the mood of the population with the exit from the exit. More and more Americans support nuclear energy because of its role in the fight against global warming. When America’s nuclear power plants are shut down, fossil fuel-burning power plants usually step in, analysis by the state’s Energy Information Agency has found. According to a poll commissioned by the Los Angeles Times, 44 percent of Californians are now in favor of building new nuclear power plants. 37 percent are against and 19 percent undecided. That’s a clear change of heart from previous years.

Well-known climate scientists like James Hansen and conservationists like Stewart Brand and Michael Shellenberger have criticized California’s exit plans for years. The state also suffers from regular power outages, the frequency of which is likely to increase as base-load power plants close. This is all the more true because the expansion of alternatives is stagnating. The US Department of Commerce has launched an investigation into the suspicion that Chinese manufacturers of solar panels are circumventing import regulations.

This procedure could result in high punitive tariffs. The lobby organization Solar Energy Industries Association reports that 318 solar projects have already been abandoned or put on hold as a result. This also delayed the installation of the storage batteries planned on a large scale. In combination with solar fields, these large batteries could reliably supply electricity.

It is unclear whether Newsom’s initiative will be successful: there are doubts that the Diablo Canyon power plant meets the funding criteria for a corresponding cash injection, but also that the Californian Congress will agree to an extension and that the operating company will also support the project.

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