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EDITORIAL: Newsom’s nuclear power push exposes green energy

If you want more tangible evidence of how unrealistic the green push for renewable energy is, look at California.

This month, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission gave the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant a lifeline. The facility, located in San Luis Obispo, was scheduled to shut down in 2025. But regulators now say it may remain open while it pursues the ability to operate for another 20 years.

This is a significant change and more evidence that the progressive agenda on renewable energy isn’t yet remotely tenable if the nation hopes to keep the lights on.

In 2016, PG&E, which operates the plant, announced that it would close and be replaced with solar and wind power. Environmental groups had long sought to shutter the facility. In 2018, the company withdrew a renewal application before federal regulators.

But last year, the California Legislature passed a bill that reversed the California Public Utilities Commission’s decision to approve the license termination. That set the table for the NRC’s recent decision.

Even if the federal government grants approval for another 20 years of operations, it’s unclear whether that will happen. State lawmakers say the plant must close by 2030, as California moves to require that all power come from renewable and zero-carbon sources by 2045. Why nuclear power, which is carbon-free, isn’t acceptable to some environmentalists is a separate discussion.

Gov. Gavin Newsom was closely involved in this flip-flop. He visited the power plant shortly before the NRC’s decision. He signed last year’s bill seeking to extend the plant’s operations. He even told the Los Angeles Times editorial board that he had been considering keeping the nuclear power plant online since 2020. That’s when California had rolling blackouts. Hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses lost power.

The transition to renewable energy was directly responsible for that outage. A heat wave caused people to turn up the air conditioning, but power production declined after the sun set. Officials avoided a similar outage last year only by texting people and begging them to use less power.

Imagine those situations had occurred without the reliability of nuclear power. The Diablo Canyon plant provides around 10 percent of California’s electricity. That energy is crucial when the sun goes down. Without nuclear or a reliable replacement, such as natural gas plants, Californians would face the possibility of blackouts on a regular basis.

California isn’t the only state reliant on nuclear energy. It provides around 19 percent of the country’s power. Wind and solar account for 12 percent.

All this should give voters pause when considering wind and solar power mandates. When they’re needed most, such sources are often unreliable. With its efforts to keep the Diablo plant operational, California admits as much.

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