After winning an extension to keep California’s last nuclear plant open, Pacific Gas & Electric is now seeking to receive part of a $6 billion federal program to help keep the nation’s nuclear fleet online.

PG&E submitted documents on Friday to the US Department of Energy’s Civilian Nuclear Credit Program, created by the Biden administration earlier this year, beating the September 6 program submission deadline.

The Department of Energy did not say whether it would agree to PG&E’s request, but shortly after SB 846 was passed, the department’s deputy secretary ruled in favor.

“I am extremely pleased to see California expanding Diablo Canyon operations,” Katy Huff said in a statement. “These reactors critically underpin our nation’s decarbonization goals and powering them 24/7 will support grid stability for consumers across the state as we transition to net zero.”

Now that PG&E has filed its application, the Department of Energy will determine if PG&E is eligible to receive funding and then determine how much the utility will receive. Diablo Canyon is the only plant potentially eligible for the first civilian nuclear crediting period.

The submission came less than two days after the California Legislature, at the request of Governor Gavin Newsom, rescinded previously scheduled shutdown dates for the Diablo Canyon power plant in San Luis Obispo.

Introduced as an emergency measure, Senate Bill 846 passed the Assembly on a 67-3 vote and was passed by the Senate, 31-1, capping a frantic last night of the legislative session.

Under the terms of the bill, Diablo Canyon’s Unit 1 reactor can continue to generate electricity until October 31, 2029 and Unit 2 can continue until October 31, 2030. That’s five years longer than a 2016 agreement anticipated. .

Newsom pushed Sacramento lawmakers to pass SB 846, saying the 2,200 megawatts generated by the power plant are needed to ensure the short-term reliability of California’s increasingly fragile power grid. The governor signed the bill Friday.

“Following instructions from the state, we have submitted a request for funding to the Department of Energy through its civilian nuclear credit program to help reduce costs for customers if the license to operate the plant was extended,” PG&E spokeswoman Suzanne Hosn said in an email to the Union-Tribune on Tuesday. .

SB 846 included a provision that allows PG&E to access a $1.4 billion forgivable loan from the state’s general fund, i.e. ratepayers, “to facilitate the extension of the period of operation of the Diablo Canyon power plant”.

But as the vote nears, the governor’s office said the federal government should “cover most if not all of the cost of the loan” and if the Department of Energy denies PG&E’s request, the loan will be terminated.

The bill also establishes a framework for rate collection and power plant purchases that sets fixed, volumetric charges billed to “all load service entities” under the jurisdiction of the California Public Utilities Commission. That means utility customers statewide, including those in San Diego’s gas and electric utility territory, will share the expense, not just PG&E customers.

However, one of the bill’s sponsors, Senator Bill Dodd, D-Napacited estimates in the Senate that an expansion of Diablo Canyon would result in increased monthly bills of no more than 57 cents per month and potential savings of $5.43 per month, “depending on load and quantity sold on the system,” Dodd said.

A number of environmental groups and opponents of Diablo Canyon lambasted the expansion, with Friends of the Earth calling it “reckless beyond belief”.

PG&E has yet to obtain licenses from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and receive approval from state agencies. Additionally, the Diablo earthquake safety lawsuits that were shelved will now be resuscitated, said David Weisman of the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibilityan anti-nuclear group from San Luis Obispo.

“Here’s every deadline, here’s every report (the state) says it needs to be released, we’ll watch the birds and watch every step,” Weisman said. “We’re going to make sure every I is dotted and every T is crossed out.”

Diablo Canyon generates some 2,200 megawatts of electricity, which represents nearly 9% of the state’s power supply and 17% of California’s zero-carbon electricity.