Crazifornia: Will it be Gov. Brownout?

220px-San_Onofre_NPP_croppedFeb. 13, 2013

By Laer Pearce

On Jan. 31, the strained California electricity grid marked the one year anniversary of the shutting down of Unit 3 at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. The reactor was taken off-line when pinhole leaks were discovered in water pipes that carry heated radioactive water from the reactor to a steam generator.

The process of shutting down the reactor caused a much publicized release of radioactive steam — which contained about as much radioactivity as one year’s worth of emissions from your home smoke detector. But its long-term effect is more worrisome and less publicized.

The negative impact on California’s electricity grid was made worse by the routine shut-down of San Onofre’s Unit 2 earlier in January for routine maintenance and refueling. It has been off-line ever since because it’s now under the same regulatory hold as Unit 3. (SONG’s Unit 1 was decommissioned in 1992 following 24 years of uneventful service.)

When the two reactors are on-line, they generate up to 2,200 megawatts of power — enough for 1.4 million homes and businesses. Besides supplying so much power, the power stations are critical to California’s electrified life because they provide essential voltage support. Voltage support functions like water pressure in a water system. A minimum amount of pressure is needed within the system to ensure water will move through pipes, just as a minimum amount of voltage support is necessary to ensure electrons will move through power lines.

Without sufficient voltage support, California will experience brownouts and blackouts when demand peaks. Yet last summer, with San Onofre completely off-line, we dodged brownouts. Southern California Edison, which co-owns the plant with San Diego Gas & Electric and the city of Riverside, attributes that to the lucky alignment of four factors:

* New transmission lines switched on in 2012, so more power could be brought in from elsewhere;

* Different places in the service area had hot spells at different times;

* Edison was able to buy power from AES’ 900 megawatt natural gas-fired power plant in Huntington Beach;

* People conserved.

This year, only the fourth factor remains certain. Businesses and individuals will conserve power when it’s needed, especially since many have traded 100 percent reliability for lower rates.  But no new transmission lines will come on-line this year, and last year’s Southern California weather, which saw hot spots migrating from location to location instead of covering the entire region, was unusual and not likely to be repeated.

AES Plant

What about the AES generating plant in Huntington Beach?  It’s still there and the natural gas pipeline is still connected to its boilers. So why is it that we won’t be able to get even a single kilowatt of power from it when we’ll need it this summer? The answer can be found in California’s fixation on single-handedly saving the planet from the ravages of global warming.

One keystone to that quixotic quest is California’s first-in-the-nation state-run cap and trade program, which kicked off last November with the state’s first carbon credit auction.  AES decided to sell the plant’s carbon credits at the auction, and because it did, no greenhouse gases can be emitted from its stacks this year.  As far as California’s electricity grid is concerned, the plant might as well have been wiped out by a tsunami.

Could it really be that a slip of paper from a harebrained and costly auction — an auction that will not accomplish one whit of planet-saving — may result in brownouts and blackouts this summer? The answer to that question, unfortunately but not at all unexpectedly, is yes.

With long-time environmentalist Gov. Jerry Brown at California’s helm, green-leaning Democrat super-majorities in both houses of the state legislature and entrenched eco-crats ruling the state’s regulatory agencies, the AES plant is certain to remain shuttered no matter what the summer may bring. The carbon crusaders simply cannot afford to allow a high-profile precedent to undercut the centerpiece of their carbon-fighting battle so early in the auction’s history.

So, should brownouts and blackouts return to California this summer, remember this: It wasn’t really problems at the San Onofre nuclear power plant that caused them. It was problems in the thinking of California’s leadership.

Laer Pearce, a veteran of three decades of California public affairs, is the author of “Crazifornia: Tales from the Tarnished State.”

29 comments

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  1. Ted Steele, The Decider
    Ted Steele, The Decider 13 February, 2013, 09:46

    1 year no san o and no brown outs yet.

    For decades the thing has leaked radiation into the air and earth below unit 1 and 2. It has safety violated so many times in the public record most people have lost track. It is no longer truly cost effective. The technology is long changed making this one obsolete. It sits on the ocean and on a fault. Originally it was to be shuttered by now.

    And yet teabaggers still want to re start it……. and they wonder why they can’t win elections.

    Reply this comment
  2. jimmydeeoc
    jimmydeeoc 13 February, 2013, 09:48

    Re: AES……

    Didn’t I see a photo sometime back of large holes being deliberately punched through the boilers, so as to render them permanently useless? Or was it the gas feed lines they severed? Something like that……I know there was some form of intentional vandalism.

    I DO recall it struck me as incredibly insane to destroy an asset that could at the very least been kept in mothballs in case of an emergency (we tend to have those from time to time).

    Furthermore the “intentional vandalism” was required as it was a part of the decommissioning process as written into law, as if otherwise a nefarious Dr Evil might someday take it upon himself to fire up the boilers on his own.

    Any of this ringing any bells with anyone?

    Reply this comment
  3. jimmydeeoc
    jimmydeeoc 13 February, 2013, 09:55

    “1 year no san o and no brown outs yet.”

    Teddy once again missing the entire point of Pierce’s argument.

    One thing’s for sure…Teddy’s 15 for 15 at missing points.

    I’ll enjoy seeing the photos this August of Teddy’s hamster farm, power from dozens of spinning wheels lashed together in Rube Goldberg fashion, all in a futile effort to power his Google Machine.

    lol lol lol……………..

    Reply this comment
  4. doug
    doug 13 February, 2013, 09:58

    right after the japan tsunami, Edison stated that the san O plant was completely safe and could withstand such a disaster.
    then the information leaked out about a real leak and they shut down the plant.
    they stated environmental testing was initiated and is still ongoing.
    i think i read here that Edison will increase rates to pay for the shut down as well. something to do with Edison and its Edison-related company that owns and operates the actual plant.
    tie that in with the cap and trade auction, you still get higher user rates, a non-functioning nuclear plant, a non-fully used gas plant and soon to be, roaming blackouts.

    obama just said last night that green jobs are coming……

    Reply this comment
  5. jimmydeeoc
    jimmydeeoc 13 February, 2013, 10:02

    For Teddy. I’d send away for the blueprints.

    http://www.worth1000.com/entries/108173/hamster-powered

    Reply this comment
  6. jimmydeeoc
    jimmydeeoc 13 February, 2013, 10:27

    “……and soon to be, roaming blackouts.”

    Indeed. California: The most technologically-advanced region in all of human history, powered by an electrical system the equal of……

    Jamaica.

    lol……..(No offense to the many, many Jamaicans on this blog, but I’m sure you understand what I’m driving at. Of course Jamaica has power. Most of the time. Satisfactory if your economy is based on tourism, music, rum, and weed. Not so much if you hope to retain title as “the most technologically-advanced region in all of human history”.)

    Reply this comment
  7. BobA
    BobA 13 February, 2013, 11:38

    jimmydeeoc:

    Be mindful of the people who oppose nuclear power. The only thing they know about nuclear power is what they learned from watching the movie “China Syndrome”.

    I’ve talked to more than a few of these protesters and to a person, all of them were science illiterates who knew next to nothing about nuclear physics.

    Ask them the difference between somatic damage and genetic damage and they’re clueless. Tell them that they’re bombarded on a daily basis with more harmful natural radiation than they will ever receive living next to a nuclear power plant over a life time and they’re astounded.

    These kind of people are neither reasonable, rational or informed. Go back a hundred years or so and these same people would’ve protested the automobile and electricity as being dangerous, deadly and unnecessary.

    Reply this comment
  8. Ted Steele, The Decider
    Ted Steele, The Decider 13 February, 2013, 13:13

    BobA– I am 100% FOR nuke power. SONGS is a relic and obviously should be closed. Hundreds of leaks, atmospheric discharges and violations over 30 years and until now NO longitudinal cancer study around the plant.

    Only the dense support SONGS.

    But God Bless ya little buddies! Teabaggers all.

    Reply this comment
  9. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 13 February, 2013, 13:33

    BobA– I am 100% FOR nuke power. SONGS is a relic and obviously should be closed. Hundreds of leaks, atmospheric discharges and violations over 30 years and until now NO longitudinal cancer study around the plant.
    ==
    Damn, is there ANYHTING you’re not an expert on?

    Reply this comment
  10. Ted Steele, The Decider
    Ted Steele, The Decider 13 February, 2013, 17:09

    mmmmmmmmm…………he must comment…….mmmmmmmmmmmm

    hurry, do it again!
    quick! Be first!!!
    slave troll! lol

    Reply this comment
  11. dltravers
    dltravers 13 February, 2013, 17:21

    Something must have scared the hell out of the Japanese after Fukashima, they shut down every nuke plant in their country.

    Never was quite sure where to go with the issue. I love the cheap, carbon free electricity but an not sure about the effects of a realy big accident.

    For sure nothing will make the environuts happy. They hate damms and the carbon free electricy they generate, they hate nukes and the carbon free electricity they generate, and they hate oil for sure.

    They seem to love generating fuel from sugar cane. It has a few less carbon atoms in its molecular structure and its easy to ignore all the old growth rain forest in Brazil cut down so they can grow the cane.

    Wait a minute, doesn’t that rain forest sop up the miniscule amount of CO2 in the atmosphere? Plants have been proven to be pretty efficient at doing just that….

    Reply this comment
  12. BobA
    BobA 13 February, 2013, 17:24

    Rex:

    San Onofre is an outdated design but that doesn’t mean we should abandon nuclear power until there is a viable alternative available and ready to go. The energy contained within a nuclear reaction is unmatched by any other source of energy known to physics.

    Biofuels and solar power simply will not do. They are fraught with enormous costs, inherent technical limitations and unintended consequences if done on a large scale. Protesting nuclear power would pale in comparison.

    There is ongoing research in cold fusion but that’s several years away from commercialization (It turns out Dr. Stanley Pons and Dr. Martin Fleischmann were right after all).

    There is also research into other theoretical forms of energy but human science is not yet advanced enough to exploit it.

    Nuclear fusion is our best bet for the time being until those other forms of energy come to fruition.

    Reply this comment
  13. us citizen
    us citizen 13 February, 2013, 17:42

    Id like to know Teddy why it is always the teaparty’s fault. You obviously KNOW NOTHING about them. Their goal is a smaller govt, less taxes and getting people like you off the planet.

    Reply this comment
  14. Ted Steele, The Decider
    Ted Steele, The Decider 13 February, 2013, 18:08

    Of course nuke is good—- but the technology has changed in the last 35 years since SONGS went on line with unit one— duh!

    Teabaggers pro unsafe nuke? Why yes US Cit they are—- take an honest poll of the teabaggers out here—– they like–

    pro SONGS
    pro assault weapons
    anti immigrant
    etc etc etc

    truth be told MANY of them love Rush and the other high school drop out am DJ’s

    Sorry Doooooood.
    Tea Baggism, while good in theory……is populated by W. trashy nit wits.Hence….the stupid costumes/signs/hate speech etc….

    Have a SUPER day!!!

    Reply this comment
  15. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 13 February, 2013, 19:01

    us citizen says:

    February 13, 2013 at 5:42 pm

    Id like to know Teddy why it is always the teaparty’s fault. You obviously KNOW NOTHING about them. Their goal is a smaller govt, less taxes and getting people like you off the planet.
    ==
    Why are you trying to reason with atroll???

    Reply this comment
  16. Ted Steele, The Decider
    Ted Steele, The Decider 13 February, 2013, 19:17

    Poodle—- Are you disrespecting yourself again?

    lol

    0 for 14(tm)!

    The man asked legit questions and
    he deserves the respect of an answer.
    Relax little buddy.

    Reply this comment
  17. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 13 February, 2013, 21:25

    Teddy finally woke up from the KO I gave ya~!

    Reply this comment
  18. BobA
    BobA 13 February, 2013, 21:45

    Rex:

    Teddy wouldn’t know a tea party from a tupperware party. He spends most of his time at a circle jerk playing with his little buddy.

    Reply this comment
  19. Wayne Lusvardi
    Wayne Lusvardi 13 February, 2013, 23:13

    There is another plausible hypothesis as to why Edison was able to take two nuclear generators off line without blackouts. It may be that the number of businesses and industries leaving the state — together with the cutbacks in use of electricity due to the economic recession — has resulted in a substantial decline in electricity usage. Maybe fixing rods in the reactors is not the real reason the reactors have been offline. Oddly, electricity rates may go up while demand goes down. There may be no need to further reduce air pollution by Cap and Trade is actual electricity usage — and thus pollution — has significant declined.

    Reply this comment
  20. Hondo
    Hondo 14 February, 2013, 05:33

    I surfed for years at San Onofre and I’m doing fine and my pee doesn’t glow in the dark. It gives of as much radiation as a smoke detector.
    Hondo…

    Reply this comment
  21. Ted Steele, The Decider
    Ted Steele, The Decider 14 February, 2013, 06:32

    Cancer from chronic exposure takes 20 years to show results. That’s why a longitudinal ca. study is in the works. I used to surf there too Honda. Now I make the drive to Encinitas.

    Reply this comment
  22. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 14 February, 2013, 07:08

    Cancer from chronic exposure takes 20 years to show results.
    ==
    OMG now Teddy is a cancer expert!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Is there ANYTHING you are not an “expert” on ;(

    Reply this comment
  23. Ted Steele, The Decider
    Ted Steele, The Decider 14 February, 2013, 10:11

    I am an expert on a few things.

    Statistics for certain.

    Hmmmmm…..

    Your stats?
    0 for 14 ™! LMAO !!!!!!

    Ouch!!!!!!!!!!!! lolol

    Reply this comment
  24. Itachee
    Itachee 14 February, 2013, 10:13

    There is actually more to the potential brown out story then just San O and and AES plants being off line. Historically San O and PG&E’s Diablo Canyon where the overnight power sources to support pumped storage hydro projects (SCE’s Balsam Meadows and PG&E’s Helms projects) in the Sierras. These pumped hydro projects provide large amounts of vital peaking power into grid during peak demand periods. And pumped hydro has the advantage of being able to go from -0- to 100% output in under a minute.

    Note also there is now a big push to shut down Diablo taking another few thousand MW off the grid. If both San O and Diablo cease generation there is only one source of power to do pump back at the hydro plants. And that is gas fired which would normally be off line at night. That is of course if there is enough gas fired generation capacity available.

    Reply this comment
  25. a frequent reader
    a frequent reader 14 February, 2013, 11:49

    Ted Steele, The Decider says:

    February 14, 2013 at 10:11 am

    I am an expert on a few things.

    Statistics for certain.

    ================================

    I would agree your knowledge on teabagging is 2nd to none.

    Reply this comment
  26. Ted Steele, The Decider
    Ted Steele, The Decider 14 February, 2013, 15:33

    Thanks Freq Reader!

    After years of CWD reading I have come to understand the teabagger. They are a curious lot. They LOVE to pretend that teabaggism is ALL about smaller gov and less taxes and LOVE to pretend that they really are not just typical ultra right religious republicans and often with a latent racist/ignorant bent. I am sure that there are honest tea baggers who just view their baggism from the fiscal pov, but EVERY time we see one or more of these dullards on the news they are wearing costumes and holding patently racist/ignorant signs etc………it’s sad to see these clowns run the GOP out of power year after year but I truly don’t see any groundswell of pol courage in the party to eject them……

    Thanks for at least noticing my expertise!

    Reply this comment
  27. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 14 February, 2013, 20:37

    Rex:

    San Onofre is an outdated design but that doesn’t mean we should abandon nuclear power until there is a viable alternative available and ready to go. The energy contained within a nuclear reaction is unmatched by any other source of energy known to physics.
    ==

    Unlike teddy, who is an expert on anything and everything, I don’t have the knowledge to comment one way or the other on San Onofre.

    Reply this comment
  28. Ted Steele, The Decider
    Ted Steele, The Decider 15 February, 2013, 08:17

    Rex:
    San Onofre is an outdated design but that doesn’t mean we should abandon nuclear power until there is a viable alternative available and ready to go. The energy contained within a nuclear reaction is unmatched by any other source of energy known to physics.

    Well said BobA!!!!

    Time for SONGS to be shut down and more modern methods employed!

    0 for 14 ™!

    lol

    Reply this comment
  29. Bill - San Jose
    Bill - San Jose 15 February, 2013, 19:42

    I hope that Nevada gets onboard with abusing us with outrageous rates for power now and into the long term future.

    When you shut down all power plants on the coast that are ocean cooled to save the fish, you deserve what you get.

    When you refuse to build new reservoirs to end the term drought and simultaneously provide hydro electric power, you deserve what you get.

    Reply this comment

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