A perfect storm at Diablo Canyon in SLO County

June 26, 2022


There has always been a myriad of threats to the precious coast of California. Sewage, over fishing, oil drilling and recently, seismic testing, to name a few. But never before have so many of these threats developed into the perfect storm now bearing down on the central coast in San Luis Obispo County.

At the eye of the storm is the push for large-scale seawater desalination. Like a furry sea otter with a cute little nose, desalination has a certain appeal – something they call water. Fresh, clear, pure, quenching, life – affirming water.

With propaganda power like that, desalination of seawater is the obvious choice to anchor the team of onrushing coastal and inland destruction.

As a city council candidate in Huntington Beach, I remember the expensive, colorful full-gloss mailers sent out by the hundreds of thousands to every household, extolling the benefits of desalination and a big bright photograph of local firemen with a fire hose. But the company behind the push, Poseidon Resources LTD, was no friend of the citizens or the coast.

They had a similar scam running in Tampa Bay, and walked away leaving the city holding the bag with a desal plant that ran way over budget and never performed as advertised. They are still trying to build a plant in Huntington Beach to this very day, co-located with the AES Power Plant, a company who themselves walked away from a multi-billion dollar plant in Europe a few years ago.

For a clearer picture, one must look at all the large-scale desalination projects proposed for the West Coast (one already having been built in Carlsbad). The desalination plants all have one thing in common: all are proposed to be built co-located or ‘piggybacked’ on the existing seawater cooling intake pipes of coastal power plants!

This is not an accident. As one mentor taught me, “This is not about water. It has never been about water.”

The entire ocean desalination scheme is all about seawater intakes. They are incredibly destructive and are killing vast amounts of plankton. In fact, they are so infamous they are no longer permitted to be built and are being removed. But slap a desal unit piggyback on that intake pipe, and you have larvae destruction forever. Larvae means plankton, and plankton feeds every fish in the ocean.

The process of saving the intake pipe by co-locating a desal on it is known as ‘enshrinement.’ You see the danger.

Another drawback of desalination is that the filters clog up a lot, because you have to shoot the salt water through a membrane at very high pressure. This takes a prohibitive amount of energy. And that brings us to the next part of this perfect storm of coastal destruction: the colossal offshore wind turbines. There have never been studies of the effect on the marine environment of vibrations that would go around the clock 365 days a year.

There have been studies though, showing how the giant assemblage of wind turbines frightens migrating birds to the point they take huge evasive action. Action so evasive that it keeps the birds from resting or feeding, and will lead to their eventual extinction. Then there is the issue of being a navigational hazard to whales.

There is also the issue of what becomes of these turbines, each over a thousand feet tall, when they reach the end of their design life. Like oil rigs-to-reefs, they will be dumped right where they stand and be called reefs.

Finally, these turbines would utilize the existing PG&E infrastructure, the transmission lines we all now know as ‘fire wires.” Then the desal water will be used in court to get permission to develop every last bit of open land for many miles of coast and many miles inland.

The end result of desalination is a concrete jungle from San Francisco to Maryland, with future citizens standing in long lines at the coast waiting their turn to gaze out over a dead and dying ocean.

But on the bright side, maybe by the time the Diablo Canyon nuclear waste is no longer dangerous, a half million years from now, the ocean will recover. Maybe.

Joey Racano is the director of the Ocean Outfall Group

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When someone more than doubles a statistical fact that is one online search worth of effort, you can stop reading and feel good for the time you have got back. Do a shred of research. I understand your intent of hyperbole, Joey, but you turned what could have been an interesting and educational article that should have been science-backed into not-worth-reading material.

I completely enjoyed this excellent sarcasm. Right on top of the most enjoyable, other than Del,of course.

Thousand foot tall wind turbines??

And so we will get our water and power from where……..?

Diablo Canyon provides 15% of California’s emission-free electricity, and as such, should be preserved.

As we continue to experience more frequent heat waves and droughts, we will need more and more energy. Best keep Diablo Canyon as long as possible.

Nothing to see here, folks. Move on to the next story.

This opinion piece is trash in print, entirely useless, a total waste of reading space. I hope you enjoy drinking sand in the coming months. If you are really concerned, how about working with PG&E, the state of California and state universities to conduct a full-day public forum on the Central Coast focused on identifying the realistic Diablo Canyon operational extension and desalination issues, discussing the scientific facts and figures and evaluating potential solutions to benefit residents of the Central Coast and California. Do some good for the people instead of publishing that tripe of an opinion piece. Go get a real life.

Well, it would have been interesting if this little rant had included some facts, accurate information or a solution to the water crisis. desalination is a very viable source for water in our state. But by all means lets protect the plankton, prevent desalination from creating that concrete jungle from here to Maryland and replace it with a wasteland that was once the West Coast.

Ok, so what are your ideas regarding water and electric supply, locally and for the State?