Diablo Canyon Shutdown Gets Personal

by Abe Weitzberg

While the nuclear community has been encouraged by the recent action taken by New York giving recognition for the intrinsic value of carbon-free emissions from nuclear power, the same cannot be said for California. New York has found value in keeping their nuclear power plants operational, but unfortunately, given the political situation in California, it is unlikely that any proposed resolutions in favor of keeping Diablo Canyon Power Plants (DCPP) open will happen.

PG&E has teamed with anti-nuclear organizations to retire the DCPP at the end of their current NRC licenses and has persuaded some of their labor unions to support the plan by offering lucrative retention bonuses. PG&E has claimed that continued DCPP operation would be incompatible with their projected load demands and projected availability of wind, solar, and efficiency resources, even though they commit to only replacing 20 percent of the DCPP output.

A group of local pro-nuclear activists in San Luis Obispo has taken it upon itself to challenge the PG&E proposal before the California Public Utilities Commission in proceedings to begin in September. The group’s position is that whenever operating nuclear plants are shutdown the immediate consequence is a significant increase in fossil-fueled generation. Additionally, because of the relative isolation of San Luis Obispo, the importance of DCPP to the local communities and their economy is far greater than it would be if there were other major industries and employers. While the PG&E employees nearing retirement age might welcome the retention bonuses, many younger employees would prefer to keep their jobs, and not have to retrain or move away from their communities. For these local activists the issue is personal.

The local group is called Californians for Green Nuclear Power (CGNP) and their website is http://cgnp.org. CGNP is facing an uphill battle going up against some of the most powerful business interests in the state allied with major anti-nuclear organizations. While there is hope that initiatives at the national level will eventually turn things around, the need to stop the proceeding to shut down DCPP and terminate the NRC licenses is immediate. As individuals, you can support CGNP’s efforts by spreading the word.

Abe WeitzbergAbe Weitzberg is a mostly retired nuclear engineer. In his almost 60 year career he has worked on space nuclear power and propulsion systems and large commercial terrestrial nuclear power reactors. He has performed a wide variety of consulting tasks for DOE, NRC, NASA, EPRI and utilities.


5 thoughts on “Diablo Canyon Shutdown Gets Personal

  1. William Gloege

    What always needs to be a part of the discussion of non-emitting nuclear power is the rapidly advancing state of global warming, the absolute worst, maximum threat to mankind and life on earth.

    In reality we are in a WWII desperate situation (actually much worse), yet we meander along, endlessly discussing technologies like we have forever.

    We don’t. All major ice caps are melting at accelerating rates. The massive Pine Island glacier in Antarctica, studied for years by NASA’s Project Ice Bridge research, is undergoing great erosion of its entire base due to melting. A great crack has opened on this state-sized piece of ice, threatening a quicker plunge of ice into the sea causing suddenly rising world sea levels. Greenland is no better. Methane hydrates are erupting from the Arctic Ocean, releasing long-stored ghg in increasing quantities. Permafrost in the tundra is melting causing release of more ghg.

    The next phase of the global warming epoch will be seven billion humans going into survival mode, crossing national borders amidst violence and chaos, and perhaps wars as nations try to stem the tidal wave of fleeing humans in search of water and food. Read Hansen’s attempt to peer into this final phase, “Storms of my Grandchildren.” But best of all are James Lovelock’s books, written specially to warn laymen of what’s to come. (The Revenge of Gaia and The Vanishing Face of Gaia). Lovelock is undoubtedly the premier earth scientist shown by his singlehanded discovery of the cause of the ozone hole, leading to it’s mitigation. His Gaia hypothesis also explains the self regulating nature of earth and how CO2 emissions are on the brink of destroying that “automatic” earth regulation system.

    The hour is late. We need to greatly pick up the pace to have a chance.

  2. Thomas E Mistler

    All interesting. But we do not need to change the decisions of the past that have taken great investments and produced excellent capability that can and should continue to help society for many years. We need to finalize the decisions on waste and storage regardless of whether we continue to build new nuclear plants to replace what we have put in place in America. Political decisions are not the best for making technical and economic choices along with environmental safety . Let’s don’t throw away what we have while we embrace some new sources of energy. The cost is not worth the accelerated benefits, if any.

  3. Dr. Gene Nelson

    Here’s some late-breaking news from Environmental Progress regarding the Diablo Canyon Power Plant controversy. Quoting the old axiom, ” Sunlight makes the best disinfectant!”

    Group wants CPUC taken off decision over nuclear power plant
    – Environmental Progress wants Legislature to weigh Diablo Canyon closure

    San Diego Union Tribune
    By Rob Nikolewski | 4:10 p.m. Sept. 8, 2016 | Updated, 7:23 a.m. | Sept. 9, 2016

    About a month and a half ago, Rob also covered CGNP’s initiative to consider a SONGS restart as the most cost-effective solution. Pro-nuclear green group: Bring back San Onofre
    – Move would be unprecedented, plant’s operator says

    San Diego Union Tribune
    by Rob Nikolewski | 4:09 p.m. July 21, 2016

  4. Marcel F. Williams

    The real future of commercial nuclear power is in Ocean Nuclear Power, IMO. Electricity production only comprises about 40% of the energy used in the United States. Nuclear power should and can do a lot more than just produce electricity for regional domestic use.

    Mass producing– floating nuclear power plants– for the production of synfuels: methanol, gasoline, jet fuel, diesel fuel, dimethyl ether should be the primary focus. Such floating power plants could be remotely sited in remote US territorial waters that are free of political constraints.

    Tankers could ship carbon neutral methanol to floating methanol power stations deployed near coastal towns and cities in the US and around the world. Carbon neutral gasoline, diesel fuel or dimethyl ether could also be shipped to coastal towns an cities.

    Floating methanol electric power plants could be docked at Diablo Canyon supplying California with the same amount of nuclear power that ground based Diablo Canyon facilities do– without the political angst of having a nearby nuclear power facility.

    And California ship building ports could be some of the major producers of of Ocean Nuclear Power plants and floating methanol power plants.


  5. Jim Hopf

    Another group ANS members may want to join, if they want to help save Diablo Canyon and US nuclear in general, is Environmental Progress. Yet another group would be the Citizen’s Climate Lobby, a large and fast-growing group whose single objective is getting a revenue-neutral carbon tax passed in the United States. They have a better chance than you think of being successful, and a carbon price would totally change the game for nuclear.

    As for Diablo, not only do political attitudes in the state make it an uphill climb to get policies that would help nuclear at all, but it may be that nothing short of repealing the state’s 50% renewable energy mandate will be enough to save Diablo. Either that, or amend it to include nuclear (again, unlikely given political attitudes).

    There is actually a lot of truth to PG&E’s argument that the renewables mandate will result in the plant having to be shut down almost half the time, during periods of peak renewables output. Requiring large penetrations of intermittent renewables all but requires that “flexible” fossil generation be used for all the remaining power. Thus, the renewables mandate alone makes running Diablo non-viable, regardless of other policies. (This may have figured into the decision to close San Onofre as well.) The only other potential option would be some approach where Diablo’s power is exported out of state during peak renewable generation periods.

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