Newsom Administration Looks To Save Controversial Nuclear Plant Amid California Energy Crisis

(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
March 2, 2023

California could scrap plans to shutter its sole remaining nuclear power plant as residents grapple with a renewable energy-induced energy crisis.

California’s Energy Commission on Tuesday approved a plan to run the Diablo Canyon Power Plant through 2030, five years later than the nuclear plant was scheduled to close. While Democrats and environmentalists have long pushed to close the plant, Gov. Gavin Newsom's (D.) administration has changed course following a series of blackouts that swept the state this summer.

"As California confronts a rapidly changing climate, extraordinary heat events and record energy demand are becoming increasingly ordinary," commission vice chair Siva Gunda said in a statement. "The state needs to keep all options on the table to protect public health and safety."

The Newsom-appointed commissioners are the latest California officials to make the baseless claim that climate change has increased the frequency of extreme weather events in the state. California Democrats frequently repeated the talking point last summer, after a massive heat wave threatened rolling blackouts. California’s energy grid struggled to meet demand after years of Democratic leaders cracking down on fossil fuel use and boosting the grid’s reliance on wind and solar power.

The California commission's vote is not binding, but reopening efforts advanced Thursday when the U.S. National Regulatory Commission agreed to extend plant operations beyond 2025. That approval is a temporary measure to keep the plant's twin nuclear reactors running while the state's utility operator files for a new operating license, the company said in a statement. The operator must have its full licensing application in by the end of this year to sustain long-term operations.

Update 2:28 p.m.: This piece has been updated with information on the U.S. National Regulatory Commission.