Anti-nuke activists attack San Onofre

by CalWatchdog Staff | June 29, 2012 9:29 am

[1]June 29, 2012

By Joseph Perkins

With San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station offline since January, Southern California Edison, the plant’s majority owner, launched an energy conservation campaign this week urging its customers to save power this summer.

San Onofre’s two reactors, out of service because of issues with recently installed steam generators, produces a combined a 2,200 megawatts, which accounts for nearly 20 percent of SoCal Ed’s total electricity production.

If residents of the estimated 1.4 million homes powered by San Onofre do not conserve as much electricity as SoCal Ed hopes, there is a very real prospects of brownouts, or even blackouts, this summer.

That’s because the next several months are expected to be “considerably warmer than average,” according to Tom Dunklee, a meteorologist with the California Independent System Operator, which oversees much of the state’s energy grid. That will put upward pressure on electricity demand.

Against that backdrop, the environmental group “Friends of the Earth” has launched a campaign of its own to permanently shutdown San Onofre’s two reactors, which, the anti-nuke activists claim, “pose a unique threat to eight million Californians living within 50 miles” of the plant.

Hearing demand

Two weeks ago, Friends of the Earth filed a petition with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission demanding that SoCal Ed obtain a license amendment before San Onofre restarts its two reactors. The petition also seeks an “adjudicatory public hearing,” which would amount to a trial at which SoCal Ed would have to plead for San Onofre’s continued operation.

If, somehow, the environmental group succeeded in shutting down the nuclear plant, SoCal Ed would have to replace the electrons San Onofre generates. The anti-nuke activists suggest that would be no problem, as the utility, along with the San Onofre’s co-owners, San Diego Gas & Electric and the city ofRiverside, have made do the past five months with no disruption of service to their customers.

But that’s because SoCal Ed and its partners made certain contingency arrangements anticipating San Onofre’s temporary shutdown, obtaining replacement electricity from other sources. But they cannot easily replace the nuclear plant’s 2,200 megawatts over an extended period of time.

Friends of the Earth’s suggestion is that the nuclear-generated electricity be replaced by electricity generated by renewable energy. But even if SoCal Ed  wanted to do so – and the utility does, in fact, invest in solar, wind and hydro power – it simply could not make up San Onofre’s output anytime soon.

Indeed, SoCal Ed estimates it would take 64,000 acres of solar panels to replace the electricity San Onofre generates on its 84-acre site inSan Clemente. Or it would take 59,000 acres of wind turbines.

Given the opposition environmental groups have to even modest-sized solar and wind projects here in the Golden State, not to mention hydro projects, it is unrealistic to expect those renewable energy sources to replace nuclear power.

That may explain why 71 percent of those located in SoCal Ed’s service territory support nuclear power. They recognize that it remains an essential contributor to the state’s energy mix.

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