- Feb 24, 2021 8:45 pm GMT
"In this moment, California’s electrical grid faces no shortage of challenges. There’s the year-round risk that utility power lines will spark wildfires, and there’s the real possibility that an extreme summer heatwave will trigger more rotating blackouts. But there’s another issue looming on the horizon that California hasn’t even begun to address: replacing the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant with clean energy when it shuts down mid-decade.
In 2018, California regulators approved the decision to shut down Diablo Canyon, California’s last nuclear power plant. Shortly afterwards, California state legislators passed a law to ensure that Diablo Canyon’s retirement does not lead to an increase in global warming emissions when the power plant’s two nuclear reactors go offline in 2024 and 2025.
Will Diablo Canyon's retirement increase global warming emissions? Unfortunately, the answer is yes.
Assuming that California continues on its current decarbonization pathway most recently endorsed by regulators at the California Public Utilities Commission, the UCS analysis shows that, between now and 2030, California’s electricity sector will emit an extra 15.5 million metric tons (MMT) of global warming emissions due to the retirement of Diablo Canyon. And because those emissions would come from existing natural gas power plants that operate more frequently, air pollution emissions from gas plants would increase in tandem. We estimated that the increase in emissions of one type of air pollutant, nitrogen oxides (NOx), would be roughly equivalent to the NOx emissions from 1,890 diesel school buses operating over the next decade.
Furthermore, the UCS analysis indicates that the current decarbonization pathway for the state’s electricity sector doesn’t reduce 2030 emissions enough to fully replace Diablo Canyon in addition to meeting California’s clean energy requirements (i.e. the renewable portfolio standard). Thus, the analysis demonstrates that California’s electricity sector will not decarbonize enough by 2030 to comply with state law; further decarbonization is necessary."
Nice work identifying the problem, UCS. The plant should continue to operate for another 40-year licensing period. Right?
"Absolutely not. That is definitely NOT the take-away here."
"Since the very beginning, the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant has been plagued by seismic safety concerns."
Ah, so concern should be the basis for our evaluation of seismic safety, should it? If I'm concerned I'll be hit by a meteor tomorrow, I should plan accordingly? Of course not.
A comprehensive Seismic Probabilistic Risk Assessment for the Diablo Canyon Power Plant, Units 1 and 2, undertaken by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2018, determined the risk of Seismic Core Damage Frequency (SCDF) of 2.8x10^-5 per year, or once every 280,000 years. Strike One.
"And as with any nuclear power plant, there are the inevitable challenges of nuclear waste disposal."
The nuclear waste for all 36 years of Diablo Canyon's operation, from generating 600 trillion watthours of clean energy, is safely stored on a concrete pad the size of a convenience-store parking lot, on-site at the plant. No challenge at all. Strike Two.
"The nuclear plant uses ocean water to cool its reactors, and the cooling technology is so destructive to ocean ecosystem that the technology is being completely phased out of power plants in California."
Untrue. A 2012 study conducted by Bechtel Corp. found that the plant, which completely recycles 2.5 billion gallons of water every day and carefully screens ocean life from entering its intake ports, kills a total of 710 lbs. of fish/year. Total. Strike Three.
You're out, UCS. Time to take your ball and go home.
Author Mark Specht (above), with a background in solar panel sales and renewables investment strategies, wants you to be very, very afraid of Diablo Canyon Power Plant.
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