Diablo Canyon closure the result of failed energy policies

July 18, 2016

Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant

OPINION by DAN CARPENTER

If you live anywhere on the Central Coast, you’re aware by now that on June 21, PG&E announced it will not seek relicensing of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant when the licenses expire in 2024-2025. It’s my opinion this is a direct result of years of failed energy policies in the state of California.

PG&E in it’s announcement acknowledged that it will be unable to meet the renewable mandates by the state and had no other choice but to abandon nuclear energy production for a malaise of renewables. Just like that, 10 percent of the state’s energy supply will be gone. Coupled with the closure of San Onofre, California will be nuclear free having lost 20 percent of it’s electricity supply, not counting the additional lost energy from coal and other sources by way of state mandates.

To build the equivalent of a 2200-megawatt nuclear plant, a solar farm would require more than 20,000 acres, and a wind farm more than 100,000 acres. By contrast, Diablo Canyon is able to produce that much power and more on a footprint of 545 acres.

It’s irresponsible to think we can efficiently replace safe, low cost, greenhouse gas-free, reliable base load sources of power and operation at Diablo Canyon with renewables of wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, and hydroelectricity. It’s vital we keep all carbon free electricity sources online as a future energy policy.

San Luis Obispo Councilman Dan Carpenter

San Luis Obispo Councilman Dan Carpenter

Our leaders have let us down.

California’s SB 350 requires the state to procure 50 percent of electricity from renewable energy and double energy efficiency savings by 2030. (Forbes – California’s Growing Imported Electricity Problem)

With this broken policy in effect, we are now importing 33 percent of our electricity supply from fast growing neighbor states. These numbers have been rising rapidly since 2010. According to the Energy Information Administration, California imports electricity because it’s power markets are relatively open and generation from outside the state is often less expensive.

Besides having the most expensive electricity west of the Mississippi, California already has the least reliable electricity. We easily lead the nation with nearly 470 power outages a year compared to 160 a year for second place Texas.

California’s reliability problem will be multiplied as more wind and solar enter into the power mix. Why so much imported energy…adjacent states don’t have the egregious energy policies of California. Our polices are having negative impacts on our neighbor states and they will cease to export at some point.

So, while we pump our chest about creating a “green” environment with our renewable energy fascination, we’re siphoning energy from our neighbors with less regulations. With renewed dependence on natural gas, it’s reasonable to expect a future with increased carbon emissions.

There is a growing population of environmentalist’s who want to save nuclear power in our country precisely for its zero-carbon attributes. They’re embracing nuclear energy as sustainable, reliable, zero emissions, safe, green power. Wholesale power from Diablo Canyon costs an average 4 cents per kilowatt-hour…..alternatively, wind power 7.4, solar 12.5 cents, solar thermal 24 cents. (Energy Information Administration – San Diego Union Tribune, Nuke Plan diverts billions from Climate Change, July 6, 2016)

For the past year, we’ve been hearing from 3rd District Supervisor Hill the promise of desalinated water from Diablo Canyon for the South County. He’s claimed numerous times that a PG&E executive said “yes” to him alone after a dinner in his home. Coincidentally, PG&E, a donor to Supervisor Hill’s reelection campaign, announced it’s intention to close just days after the primary election when Hill was not able to pull off a reelection victory.

Was this desalination subterfuge in hopes of gaining favor with the electorate knowing all along it would never come to fruition? This deception would go on to cost taxpayers $300,000, according to the Aug. 2015 Tribune article “Plan to pipe Diablo Canyon desalinated water to South County moves forward.” Also an additional $900,000, according to the March 2016 Tribune article “Diablo Canyon desalination expansion moves forward.”

Supervisor Hill’s reaction to Diablo Canyon closing is, “We cannot afford to be apathetic or behave like a broken-hearted lover bemoaning codependency.”  It’s offensive and insulting to the thousands of men and woman who for decades have staked their livelihoods on the safe production of nuclear energy in our backyard.

Hill goes on to say a “terrific university” and being a “highly desirable place to live” will replace the loss of impact from this decision. His first solution is to become a “renewable energy hub.”

Renewables are undependable and will not replace the head-of-household jobs lost at Diablo Canyon and the $1 billion impact on our community. Hill also contends we should stop holding Sacramento accountable for their malfeasance because we just have to live with it.

Sounds no better than the broken narrative streaming from Sacramento.

Why Supervisor Hill, as the only supervisor in the state who has a nuclear power plant in their district didn’t you boldly support the relicensing of the plant as a matter of public policy? Why didn’t you ask your colleagues to include supportive policies in the county’s annual legislative platform?

Hill’s answer to the public, “Well, state policies led to Diablo not seeking relicensing, and regardless of the merits of those policies, our community didn’t have a say in the matter.”

Usually, when a city or county is faced with the closure or relocation of one of it’s primary employers, it pulls out all stops. The local elected officials will normally lead a massive campaign of advocacy. Did you have knowledge of the closing while the rest of the community was left in the dark? It’s time to update your job creation platform as it obviously lacks a plank for maintaining current head-of-household jobs.

Now that we know Diablo Canyon will close in 2024-25, it’s time to act and revisit The Diablo REsources Advisory Measure (DREAM Initiative – Measure A-2000 ) that was passed by 75 percent of county voters in March of 2000. An advisory measure that recognizes the Diablo Canyon Lands (including Wild Cherry Canyon) as an exceptionally precious coastal resource that should be maintained by adopting policies that promote habitat preservation, sustainable agricultural activities, and public use for enjoyment consistent with public safety and property rights.

The time has come to honor that commitment and take action. First, our county leaders must request that neither PG&E nor any subsidiary convey fee tittle to any development interest which is inconsistent with Measure A-2000. Second, request PG&E commit to the long-term protection and preservation of the Diablo Canyon Lands as one of many components in the larger effort to mitigate the closure, including cooperative efforts to pursue funding strategies to implement the elements of the plan. Third, participate in a county led strategic planning process to develop a plan for the best and highest use of the Diablo Canyon Lands consistent with Measure A-2000 once the plant has closed. Finally, encourage the CPUC to provide PG&E with any needed regulatory authorization for the timely conveyance of fee title to a local or state agency, or conservancy which can best help implement the goals of Measure A-2000.

As a lifelong resident of District 3, I’ve resided without concern in the shadows of Diablo Canyon. I want to thank the thousands of men and women for decades of safe, clean, reliable, low cost energy production without incident.

Dan Carpenter is a San Luis Obispo councilman and a candidate for the District 3 supervisor seat.


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21 Comments

  1. SLO_Johnny says:

    We cannot make the dramatic reduction in our Greenhouse gas emissions without using nuclear power. We need to just about double the amount of electricity generated in the US if we are going to achieve the reduction in fossil fuel consumption by both our vehicles and homes. France generates about 90% of it’s electricity using nuclear energy and has done so for decades. We could do the same.

    (22) 34 Total Votes - 28 up - 6 down
  2. tojofay says:

    Decades of safe power??? Dan, nuclear waste last forever- yes even after your gone. Do you care about the future or just your little life and “backyard’ ?

    (-23) 51 Total Votes - 14 up - 37 down
    • SLO_Johnny says:

      The uranium used in the reactor is mined from the ground. It is a natural element. The fuel can be recycled and reused. Over 90% of it’s original energy remains after a single fuel cycle. The waste products can be diluted and returned to the earth. Only politics prevents the solution in this country. Opponents of nuclear energy prevent the waste disposal system from operating and then use that as a reason to stop using nuclear energy.

      (17) 25 Total Votes - 21 up - 4 down
  3. EducateDistrict3 says:

    He’s right, you know.

    Diablo has held up so well, and now the progressive liberals in this County will be having to pay higher electric bills if enough renewables aren’t online to compensate the deficit by 2025.

    Heads up: I’d start thinking about rooftop solar. Oh, but darn that marine layer!!!

    (22) 48 Total Votes - 35 up - 13 down
    • Myself says:

      I don’t give a rats behind what the progressive liberals pay for electricity,I care about what I have to pay.

      (23) 43 Total Votes - 33 up - 10 down
    • discloser says:

      Rooftop solar actually picks up some power even when cloudy or even with moonlight.

      (-3) 15 Total Votes - 6 up - 9 down
  4. discloser says:

    Dan, it appears you have fallen victim to government math.

    Solar now generates 10% of California energy. Rooftop solar, not counted in government statistics accounts for another 5% of the solar power generated statewide, and is doubling every year.

    NO additional acreage needed for roof top solar! The National Renewable Energy Lab in Colorado estimates that California could get up to 74% of its power from rooftop solar energy generation.

    http://www.desertsun.com/story/tech/science/energy/2016/03/28/study-california-could-get-74-power-rooftop-solar/82360288/

    Even if this is seriously over-stated, it is good news.

    (-17) 65 Total Votes - 24 up - 41 down
    • Kaiser Bill says:

      Dan Carpenter is right on one thing and ONE THING ONLY in his column.

      Renewable energy like Wind and Solar are expensive pipe dreams.

      The solution, however, is not nuclear power.

      We need more HYDRO power. Hydro power could easily be imported from British Colombia and the Pacific Northwest. This is already done in the Northeast, where Hydro Power is delivered from Quebec to the major cities of the East Coast.

      (-28) 40 Total Votes - 6 up - 34 down
      • Indy thinker says:

        You need one thing for hydro to work and California has had very little of it the last few years!

        (29) 31 Total Votes - 30 up - 1 down
        • CharlesInCharge says:

          Intelligence? Thanks for your valuable input. /s

          (-9) 17 Total Votes - 4 up - 13 down
        • Kaiser Bill says:

          Reading Comprehension 101. I said California can use out of state hydro power from British Columbia and the Pacific NW. This is already done on the East Coast with Quebec Hydro.

          (-6) 6 Total Votes - 0 up - 6 down
          • RonHolt says:

            I think that getting hydro power from the Pacific NW or BC is as unrealistic as creating it here. Most states in the west have a distaste for California and our socio-political culture. They would be highly unlikely to want to divert existing energy sources to us but would prefer to encourage our industries to move there instead. They would be even less likely to be willing to sacrifice their environment by creating new dams for our benefit. Canada tends to see the whole US the same way those states see California. Sure, money talks, but the amount needed to make our case in these places would be astronomical.

            (2) 4 Total Votes - 3 up - 1 down
            • SamLouis says:

              Ontario Hydro and other produces have the ability to produce more then they can sell. Even with transmission losses, it might make sense…

              (-1) 3 Total Votes - 1 up - 2 down
  5. Kaiser Bill says:

    Proponents like of nuclear energy like Dan Carpenter like to promote how “clean” nuclear energy is, but they have no answer on the issue of what to do with nuclear waste. Nuclear waste has a half life of thousands of years, and one sad legacy of Diablo will be the storage of nuclear waste for years to come.

    The era of nuclear power is over. That is clear. Germany, and now California, are transitioning away from nuclear power. Politics is the art of the possible. A politician like Dan Carpenter should know this, and accept the fact of Diablo’s closure as a fait accompli reflecting the political climate in California. Instead we have a column largely devoted to bemoaning the loss of a nuclear plant that is certainly going to close. This column truly makes me wonder what type of Supervisor Dan Carpenter would be, and if he would accomplish anything constructive. I will still vote for Carpenter, simply because he has to be better than Adam Hill, and because Carpenter can be replaced by someone better in four years.

    Dan Carpenter’s final position on the 2000 DREAM Act ends an otherwise gloomy and pointless column on a high note. However, for every admirable position taken by Carpenter on preserving Diablo land, there have been equal numbers of platitudes about preserving “property rights” (this is a code word for development).

    I do not know if I trust Dan Carpenter to work towards preserving the Diablo Canyon lands. I also question if Carpenter has the vision and personality to work with city, county, state, and federal bodies to create something truly great at Diablo Canyon such as a National or State Park stretching from Montana de Oro to Diablo.

    I will reluctantly vote for Dan Carpenter, and this column penned by Carpenter illustrates why my vote will be a reserved one without much optimism.

    (-22) 48 Total Votes - 13 up - 35 down
    • TS says:

      nuclear waste management is more a political/ideological than technical issue.
      “The radioactive elements in the spent fuel have short half lives, and the radioactivity of the spent fuel is down to one percent of the original level in 300 years. The spent fuel casks can be safely stored”
      “The more radioactive an isotope is, the faster it decays.”
      “Unlike other industrial wastes, the level of hazard of all nuclear waste – its radioactivity – diminishes with time.”
      “Nuclear wastes are neither particularly hazardous nor hard to manage relative to other toxic industrial wastes.”
      http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Nuclear-Fuel-Cycle/Nuclear-Wastes/Radioactive-Waste-Management/
      http://www.brainerddispatch.com/opinion/reader-opinion/3944469-reader-opinion-need-nuclear

      (10) 20 Total Votes - 15 up - 5 down
      • catdude says:

        Hey TS want to buy a bridge?

        (-4) 16 Total Votes - 6 up - 10 down
      • kettle says:

        What unbiased sources you have there “two cents per kilowatt hour” lol. Anyone remember the Diablo “will be too cheap to meter”?

        Wish all you want, the nuclear industry blew there chance here and it will never happen at any real scale. Not cost effective, only reduces ghg by 30% and outputs a crapload of soot to build the thing and more to make the fuel.

        (-4) 12 Total Votes - 4 up - 8 down
    • ravennest says:

      I agree, Kaiser Bill. I will reluctantly vote for Dan to oust Hill but there’s something ‘slimy’ about him. I feel Debbie Peterson would have been the better choice to protect our interests in this county, so maybe she’ll consider running again in the future. As an example of Dan’s ‘slimy-ness,’ something just doesn’t sit right with his stance on the Phillips oil train. What he says leaves a lot of room for him to back pedal and support the train: ““I’m not in that position to weigh the health and safety issues against their vested rights, but I am a supporter of property rights, so I would definitely look at that,” he said. “But right now, my formalized position is to oppose it.”

      Read more here: http://www.sanluisobispo.com/news/politics-government/election/article71103242.html#storylink=cpy

      Not in a position to weigh the health and safety issues? That’s baloney! Debbie Peterson was much more convincing in that she ‘strongly opposed it.’

      How do we know that Dan won’t end up selling us all out in support of development for money under the table? Diablo Canyon and Phillips Oil train are two huge issues that impact us.

      Something just doesn’t smell good here but what choice do we have? No optimism here.

      (-4) 8 Total Votes - 2 up - 6 down
  6. Thomas A says:

    Fire Adam Hill.

    (30) 50 Total Votes - 40 up - 10 down
  7. Side_Show_Bob says:

    Well said.

    (24) 42 Total Votes - 33 up - 9 down

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