California could continue to rely on nuclear power well past the middle of the century under the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2011 Strategic Plan released May 10. DOE’s blueprint calls for doubling renewable electricity nationwide by 2012, but also outlines a department plan to extend the life of nuclear plants beyond 60 years. “America built the first nuclear reactor as part of the Manhattan Project in the 1940s,” wrote Steven Chu, secretary of energy. Chu called on the nation to regain what he called its lost leadership in nuclear power, as well as photovoltaic, wind turbine, and clean vehicle technology. The plan calls for completing “a comprehensive assessment--by September 2012--of materials’ degradation for U.S. reactors operating beyond 60 years.” The goal, according to DOE, is to determine if the plants can continue to operate after the term of the current 60-year licensing cycle, which entails an initial 40-year operating license that can be extended by 20 years.