CA’s nuclear power in doubt

Diablo_Canyon_NPP_aboveDespite calls for a resurgence in nuclear power, California could soon shutter its effort to keep the alternative energy going.

PG&E’s Diablo Canyon plant, the state’s last, has wound up in the crosshairs. As the Associated Press reported, “the company is evaluating whether to meet a tangle of potentially costly state environmental requirements needed to obtain renewed operating licenses.”

“The issues in play at Diablo Canyon range from a long-running debate over the ability of structures to withstand earthquakes — one fault runs 650 yards from the reactors — to the possibility PG&E might be ordered by state regulators to spend billions to modify or replace the plant’s cooling system, which sucks up 2.5 billions of gallons of ocean water a day and has been blamed for killing fish and other marine life.”

The fault in question has rattled nerves in the area and throughout the state. “Even before the twin reactors produced a single watt of electricity, the plant had to be retrofitted after a submerged fault was discovered 3 miles offshore during construction,” the wire noted separately. “That cleft in the earth, known as the Hosgri fault, has long been considered the greatest seismic threat to a plant that stands within a virtual web of faults. But new questions are being raised by sophisticated seafloor mapping that has found that the Hosgri links to a second, larger crack farther north, the San Gregorio fault.”

Increasing emissions

At the same time, the environmental implications of an end to nuclear power have also raised serious concerns. The last California plant to close, in San Diego county, shuttered amidst problems with its infrastructure. California’s public utility commission “approved a shutdown deal last year with the San Onofre plant’s co-owners, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas and Electric Co., that assigned about 70 percent of the $4.7 billion shutdown bill to the firms’ customers,” as the San Francisco Chronicle reported. “The companies closed San Onofre after a January 2012 leak of radioactive steam revealed widespread damage to its cooling system.”

The consequences of the closure have worked against anti-carbon policies pushed hard from Sacramento under Gov. Jerry Brown. “With the San Onofre closure, annual statewide emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases linked to electricity production in California jumped by 24 percent,” U-T San Diego observed. “In San Diego, the local electric utility commissioned a major new natural gas plant and will replace an aging plant with new equipment to keep natural gas generators at the ready.” According to expert analysts, the paper added, “the experience could be replicated on a larger scale as many U.S. nuclear plant operators struggle to compete with cheaper sources of energy.”

Innovating nuclear

In response to the dilemma, some leading Californians have come out in favor of revitalizing nuclear power on a more advanced and, presumably, safer footing. In an editorial at The New York Times, Peter Thiel used the recent Paris conference on climate change to force the issue. “If we are serious about replacing fossil fuels, we are going to need nuclear power, so the choice is stark: We can keep on merely talking about a carbon-free world, or we can go ahead and create one,” he wrote.

“We already know that today’s energy sources cannot sustain a future we want to live in. This is most obvious in poor countries, where billions dream of living like Americans. The easiest way to satisfy this demand for a better life has been to burn more coal: In the past decade alone, China added more coal-burning capacity than America has ever had. But even though average Indians and Chinese use less than 30 percent as much electricity as Americans, the air they breathe is far worse. They deserve a third option besides dire poverty or dirty skies.”


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  1. Ronald
    Ronald 1 December, 2015, 06:14

    Worldwide, fossil fuels of oil, natural gas, and coal provide more than 75% of energy consumption. Worldwide there is an increase in nuclear power to meet energy consumption growth requirements in the world, but in California we’ve had a big drop in energy supplied by nuclear due to the closure of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS), and now with PG&E’s Diablo Canyon plant, the state’s last nuclear plant is in the crosshairs for closure. Thus, there will be more reliance in California placed on the fossil fuels and renewables to meet the forecasted energy outlook for California.

    To turn our backs now on the energy and chemicals from oil, coal and natural gas that have industrialized the world in favor of more expensive, intermittent technologies of solar and wind to replace nuclear to augment the electrical grid almost guarantees that Californians will pay more for electric energy, while the vast majority of the people of developing countries will be relegated to poverty and poverty-prone conditions for the rest of their days. It’s not just “Big Oil” that would suffer – it would be all of us.

    Eliminating fossil fuels use in transportation and the infrastructures that support life as we know it would mean going back to horses, bicycles and walking or woefully inadequate, impractical mass transit, and taking freight movement back to the nineteenth century.

    The next big challenge for humanity is mitigating climate change responsibly and cost-effectively. Achieving this must involve an international strategy that realistically includes conserving fossil fuels as a precious resource for all of mankind while diversifying our global energy portfolio to take advantage of evolving technologies and alternative sources. Let’s hope that future generations will be up to the challenge facing humanity to mitigate climate change responsibly and cost-effectively.

    Reply this comment
  2. Chapeert
    Chapeert 1 December, 2015, 06:22

    “Fukushima” should be all we have to say about this topic. Even though Western Media and our Government avoids the subject, it has been contributing Nuclear waste to the pacific daily since March 2011 with no viable end in site? (Lots of bad things happening with the sea life being blamed on everything but Fukushima) Lastly, why on earth would we want to further a technology where the waste product must be isolated and stored for thousands of years? That alone should be enough to move forward with new energy sources that don’t harm the earth or the inhabitants thereof.

    Reply this comment
    • ricky65
      ricky65 1 December, 2015, 13:52

      Great. Thanks for your contribution.
      So as soon as you can figure out how to make the sun shine all day and the wind to blow 24 hrs a day call us back.

      Reply this comment
      • Chapeert
        Chapeert 1 December, 2015, 21:01

        I would probably agree with you if I hadn’t spent the past decade in a modern off grid home. Technology has come along way in 10 years.

        Reply this comment
        • ricky65
          ricky65 1 December, 2015, 22:04

          Well, maybe so but at my age I have trouble reading by candlelight.
          Besides, I find the modern cave too cold and drafty for my liking.

          Reply this comment
  3. Itachee
    Itachee 2 December, 2015, 09:53

    I was a student (engineering) at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo durig the late 1970s when Diablo was being built. And we were hearing the same environmentalist diatribe even back then. To me it plays like a nroken record. One thing many people don’t realize is that nuke plants have been an integral part of pumped storage hydro projects of which there are several in CA. Those pumped storage hydro projects are a vital part of meeting peaking electrical demands during the summer due to their ability to respond in just seconds to changing electrical loads. And they are operationally linked to nuke plants which have provided the power for over night pump back operations that will have to be replaced by fossil fuel . generation.

    In addition overall conventional hydro generation from dams is decreasing due to environmental regulations requiring additional flows for fish during times of the year when releases for hydro would normally be less. In short that results is less water being available for generation at other times of the year. There are also several cses where hydro dams ahve been and are planed to be removed for fish.

    Sooner or later CA is going to start having rolling black outs due to a lack of generation, especially when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing.

    Reply this comment
  4. Spurwing Plover
    Spurwing Plover 2 December, 2015, 13:51

    Now as long as the hollyweed crowd and those annoying pinheads from GREENPEACE and THE SIERRA CLUB oppose it after Hanoi Jane made her putrid movie THE CHINA SYNDROME

    Reply this comment
  5. Ted E Mind of your Godhead Ted
    Ted E Mind of your Godhead Ted 3 December, 2015, 18:09

    San Clemente is now just a nuke waste dump with regular leaks and still NO study of health/cancer effects–

    thanks alot nuke industry and stupid conservatives…..zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    Reply this comment

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