Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Diablo and the end of California nuclear

This morning Forbes posted Rod Adams' NRDC Announces PG&E Has Agreed To Kill Diablo Canyon:
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has just issued a press release stating that they have signed a deal with [Pacific Gas and Electric Company], IBEW local 1245, the Coalition of California Utility Employees, Friends of the Earth, Environment California, and the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility.
There is an implied quid pro quo. The groups will support PG&E’s request for an extension from the California Lands Commission of its land use permit that allows access to ocean cooling water at the Commission’s June 28 meeting. In return, PG&E will agree to withdraw its 20-year license extension application at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission . Instead, it will aim to retire the two-unit site when its current licenses expire in 2024 and 2025.
The involvement of the NRDC is noteworthy as it is the same special interest group that the New York Times credited with writing the Clean Power Plan - which I do not credit with being a plan for particularly clean power.
Outsourced government seems to be reality, as the agreement is basically opponents of nuclear power waving their ability to bring the power of government to bear upon the nuclear operator if the nuclear operation promises to disappear by 2025.

The President of the NRDC, Rhea Suh, formerly of the Department of the Interior within the Obama administration, wrote some strange things on the agreement in California’s Last Nuclear Power Plant:
For years, some have claimed that we can’t fight climate change without nuclear power, because shutting down nuclear plants would mean burning more fossil fuels to generate replacement electricity.
That’s wrong, of course, and now we have the proof.
Today, California’s Pacific Gas and Electric became the first power company toannounce plans to replace an aging nuclear reactor with sound investments that make us more energy efficient and help us get more clean power from the wind and sun.
 That's batshit crazy right there.

An agreement to do something is not proof of anything anywhere, but particularly in California where nuclear generation did decrease with the end of generation at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating station (SONGS), and wind and, particularly, solar generating capacity has soared.

Here's 25 years of California generation - which provides a limited picture of their electricity sector as much of their needed supply is imported.

And here's emissions for SO2, NOx and CO2 (data only to 2014):

Here's a 2014 comparison to Ontario, where nuclear power plants generate the majority of the electricity supply:

  • Ontario's IESO grid-connected generation was about 154 TWh, and emissions about 7 ktCO2e.
  • California's generation (from EIA data) was 199 TWh, with CO2 emission about 57 kt
  • Demand in California was about twice that in Ontario (280 TWh and 140 TWh)
So California is a spectacular laggard by this Ontarian's standard, and targeting the ~10% of their generation that comes from nuclear  to make more room for more spasmodic solar and wind isn't going to change that in a positive way.

Rhea Suh writes some other stupid things in her post, including:
... this plan is a model that can be replicated around the country, where nearly 100 nuclear reactors will retire in the coming decades, and around the world.
Good luck to California in accomplishing something beyond striking a pose, but solar and wind resources are vastly different across the globe. It would be lovely to see one jurisdiction not blessed with plentiful hydro-electric generation capability get to low emissions with renewable generators - but it would be prudent to wait for an actual success before replicating current high-priced experiments.

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