2020 - 07 - 25 MFP Urges State Water Resources Control Board to reject an extension of Once Through Cooling waiver at Diablo Canyon

San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace (MFP) opposes the extension of the waiver which allows PG&E to continue to use Once Through Cooling (OTC) for Unit 2 of the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant beyond the previously agreed-upon cessation date of January, 2025. PG&E has requested an extension of that date because it will be more convenient for Diablo Canyon to continue to use OTC until its shut-down date of August, 2025. MFP strongly objects because of the extensive damage to sea-life caused by OTC.

July 25, 2020

Eileen Sobeck, Executive Director State Water Resources Control Board 1001 I Street
Sacramento, CA 95814

cc: joaquin.Esquivel@waterboards.ca.gov; dorene.Dadamo@waterboards.ca.gov; tam.Doduc@waterboards.ca.gov; sean.Maguire@waterboards.ca.gov; laurel.Firestone@waterboards.ca.gov

Re: request to sever the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant compliance date waiver from the Draft OTC Policy Amendment scheduled for consideration at the SWRCB September 1, 2020 meeting

Dear Ms. Sobeck,

San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace opposes the compliance waiver granted to Pacific Gas & Electric’s Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant in the recommended Draft OTC Policy Amendment coming before the Board at its September 1, 2020 meeting.

The federal Clean Water Act Section 316(b) of 2010 requires coastal and estuarine power plants to cease using Once-Through Cooling due to the massive impact to the marine environment from impingement, entrainment, and thermal pollution. “The consensus among regulatory agencies at both the state and federal levels is that OTC systems contribute to the degradation of aquatic life in their respective ecosystems.” (SWRCB Draft Staff Report of March 18, 2020 at 13) Sadly, exceptions were made, and nine plants continue to operate utilizing OTC, continuing to damage our oceans and waterways. Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant circulates 2.5 billion gallons of seawater through its cooling system each day, killing multitudes of fish, fish larvae, and other sea-life.

Already out of compliance with federal law, PG&E has applied for an extension of this waiver because it is more convenient for the company’s closure timeline, and SWRCB recommends that it be granted. But Mothers for Peace strongly urges SWRCB to fulfill its mandate to protect our waters and reject this waiver request.

Grid Reliability
SWRCB cannot claim grid reliability as a justifiable reason to extend the waiver for Diablo Canyon. In fact, grid reliability was not part of the discussion in the Draft Sta
ff Report for the Diablo Canyon facility - only for the generating stations at Alamitos, Huntington Beach, Ormond Beach, and Redondo Beach. Rather, the draft report expresses concerns over grid reliability only until the year 2023. Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant is scheduled to close in years 2024 and 2025, well past the stated time of the claimed need for grid reliability.
“The State Water Board is proposing an amendment to the OTC Policy to extend the compliance dates of four OTC power plants scheduled to retire on December 31, 2020, to address system-wide grid reliability concerns and to bridge the gap as new electrical resources come online through 2023.” (at 8)

  • “The compliance date extensions are needed to ensure system-wide grid reliability. Starting in the summer of 2021, additional power is likely needed for peak usage on hot days through 2023.” (at 9)

  • “These compliance date extensions would provide a “bridge” of roughly 3,740 MW in 2021, roughly 2,230 MW in 2022, and roughly 1,380 MW in 2023 as the 3,300 MW of new procurement comes online by 2023.” (at 11)

Furthermore, the CPUC Decision Approving Retirement of DCNPP 1.16.2018 CPUC Application 16-08-006 confirms the fact that the energy from Diablo Canyon Nuclear facility will not be needed beyond 2024-2025.

• “PG&E also admits that Diablo Canyon is no longer necessary for reliability. [fn. omitted]. PG&E also projects that its load will shrink considerably by the time Diablo Canyon closes. Between 2017 and 2025, PG&E forecasts that approximately 20,000 GWh [gigawatt hours] of load will migrate to CCAs . [fn. omitted] This is comparable to the amount of bundled customer load (18,500 GWh) Diablo Canyon currently serves.” (at 10)

“In PG&E’s own words ‘whether CCA loads depart somewhat sooner or later than expected does not change the overall conclusion that DCPP is not needed for PG&E’s customers after the expiration of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission licenses in 2024 and 2025.’ ” [fn. omitted] (City and County of San Francisco Opening Brief at 3.)

“There has been clear testimony that the retirement of Diablo Canyon would not adversely affect the reliability of the system. (Transcript Vol. 6 at 957-958.)” (at 11)

“2. The retirement of Diablo Canyon will not cause adverse impacts on local or system reliability.” (at 57, Findings of Fact)

Potential for Early Closure of Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant
It has been clearly established that Diablo Canyon’s energy will not be needed after 2023. Furthermore, its continued operation is hindering the increased use of renewable energy.

“PG&E has persuasively demonstrated that Diablo Canyon is no longer a good fit for PG&E’s bundled customers. PG&E has shown that Diablo Canyon should be closed because of the high cost of operating Diablo Canyon, potential regulatory requirements regarding the once through cooling technique used by Diablo Canyon, and system over-generation problems related to Diablo... PG&E showed also that continued operation of Diablo Canyon is a bad fit in the context of California’s goal of reducing GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions in part by increasing use of renewable energy resources. This is because Diablo Canyon is a baseload, relatively inflexible resource that would exacerbate overgeneration and would result in continued curtailment of renewable resources.” (CPUC Decision Approving Retirement of DCNPP at 9, 10)

Also noted in the CPUC Decision is the possibility of earlier closure and an order that PG&E prepare a plan for that scenario. “As we gain a clearer picture of future developments, such as the relative cost of operating Diablo Canyon, this balance could change. Because there is a possibility that Diablo Canyon may cease operations earlier than 2024 and 2025, PG&E should prepare for that contingency.” (at 15)

SWRCB should not bend to PG&E’s request for an extension of its waiver. The Diablo Canyon nuclear reactors should close when their OTC permits expire. The power is not needed, its continued operation is obstructing the utilization of renewable energy resources, and the destruction to the marine environment must stop.

A Request of Convenience
SWRCB claims that the extension of Diablo Canyon’s waiver is to “update and improve the readability of the OTC Policy.” That’s nonsense. One must harken back to the intent of the OTC Policy which is to minimize the harmful impacts on our waters. It is not to make PG&E’s business practices more convenient.

SWRCB claims that “The State Water Board considers the proposed amendment to the compliance dates of Diablo Canyon Units 1 and 2 to conform with current NRC license expiration dates of November 2, 2024, for Unit 1 and August 26, 2025, for Unit 2 to be administrative.” (Draft Staff Report at 20) But it’s much more than that. This waiver represents ANOTHER exemption from OTC policy which results in negative environmental impacts.

Known Discrepancy?
SWRCB claims again and again that there was a known discrepancy of dates when the OTC Policy was adopted in 2010. “During development of the OTC Policy and the adoption process, PG&E identified the discrepancy between the NRC license expiration dates for both units and the compliance date listed in Section 3.E, Table 1 of the OTC Policy. The State Water Board acknowledged the discrepancy and said that compliance dates could be updated to match the NRC license expiration dates in a future amendment.” (Draft Sta
ff Report at 19)

Mothers for Peace has not been able to locate documentation for this claim, and it was not provided in the Draft Staff Report. There was no reference made to this assertion in the CPUC Decision. Additionally, in the CPUC Decision 19-11-016 November 7, 2019, Rulemaking 16-02-007, it states that “The specific generation resources within the CAISO footprint that are scheduled to retire by December 31, 2020 that could potentially have their compliance dates extended are: Alamitos Generating Station (Alamitos), R.16-02-007 ALJ/ JF2/avs - 17 - Units 3-5, totaling approximately 1,200 MW; Huntington Beach Generating 

Station, Unit 2, approximately 200 MW; Redondo Beach Generating Station (Redondo), Units 5, 6, and 8, totaling approximately 850 MW; and Ormond Beach Generating Station (Ormond Beach), Units 1 and 2, totaling approximately 1,500 MW. 8 Together, these resources represent approximately 3,750 MW of system capacity, 9 all within the transmission access charge (TAC) area of SCE.” (at 16, 17)

Note that the possibility of the extension of the compliance dates for Diablo Canyon is not even considered in this Decision.

But even if some promise was made somewhere to repair this discrepancy of dates 10 years ago, it need not be honored given the facts that:
California does not need the power from the Diablo Canyon reactors after 2023;
The operation of the reactors is stunting the development of renewable energy in California; and
The intent of the OTC Policy is to curtail damage to our waters.

Mothers for Peace urges SWRCB to withdraw the Diablo Canyon compliance date waiver from the recommended Draft OTC Policy Amendment.