PG&E seeks more time to apply for nuclear subsidy program

A flock of goats walk on a grassy hillside above Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant at Avila Beach, California. Photograph taken June 22, 2005. REUTERS/Phil Klein/File Photo

WASHINGTON, June 28 (Reuters) - Power utility PG&E Corp (PCG.N) asked the U.S. Department of Energy on Tuesday for a 75-day extension to the deadline to apply for federal funds that could keep its California nuclear plant open.

In a letter to the DOE's Office of Nuclear Energy, the utility said "an extension is needed to provide PG&E the time to collect and analyze the information and prepare an application."

The first phase of the $6 billion in funding, called the Civil Nuclear Credit program, is aimed at saving nuclear power plants that are scheduled to retire.

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The Biden administration wants to keep those facilities online with the funding that came from last year's bipartisan infrastructure bill because the industry generates more than half the country's carbon-free electricity.

While the United States still leads the world in generation of electricity from nuclear power, some plants have been shutting in recent years due to competition from renewable energy and plants that burn natural gas.

The two reactors at PG&E's Diablo Canyon plant are scheduled to shut down in 2024 and 2025, but California Governor Gavin Newsom in April said the state was open to keeping it running to shore up reliability.

In the letter, PG&E said it supported DOE's proposal to remove the requirement that facilities that receive funding derive more than half of their revenue in the competitive electricity market, a qualification that may have blocked Diablo's eligibility.

DOE proposed the change on June 17 at Newsom's request.

A group of 37 scientists, entrepreneurs and academics asked Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm to make the change saying it would allow Diablo Canyon, the source of about 10% of California's power to stay open and help fight climate change. "This is the largest source of clean energy in the most populous state in the nation, we must keep it online," said Isabelle Boemeke, the founder and head of the Save Clean Energy nonprofit group who brought the letter signers together.

The Department of Energy did not immediately comment on PG&E's request.

Edwin Lyman, director of nuclear power safety at the Union of Concerned Scientists, who is concerned about seismic risks at the plant, said: "We don't think it is fair for the DOE to move the goal posts just to help out one particular applicant that didn't initially qualify."

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Reporting by Nichola Groom and Timothy Gardner Editing by Aurora Ellis

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