Published in the San Luis Obispo Tribune, May 15, 2022
By Jane Swanson, Spokesperson
Heather Hoff and I both love our children, but we have different ideas about how to best provide for their futures. (Viewpoint: “I’m committed to the effort to keep Diablo Canyon open,” Tribune, May 8.)
I envision future generations living in a world supplied by electricity from sources that do not burden the Earth with additional carbon dioxide or radioactive waste. And one way to move in that direction is to shut down both reactors at the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.
There are those who urge PG&E not to close Diablo in 2025 despite the utility’s agreement with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to do so. These people are under the mistaken impression that the electricity no longer produced by Diablo will be replaced by fossil fuels. But this is not the case.
Peter Skala of the CPUC states, in a letter published last month in Capitol Weekly, that the State “has ordered an unprecedented amount of new clean energy procurement—11.5 gigawatts—to replace the retirement of Diablo Canyon (along with other aging gas plants that are retiring). This includes wind, solar, batteries, geothermal, and long duration storage that will be online starting in 2023.”
Furthermore, taking Diablo off-line will provide greater flexibility and resilience for the western grid. Nuclear plants must generate electricity 24/7, as varying their output increases the danger of malfunction. And when solar generation is at its peak in the middle of a sunny day, there is not enough room for it on the electrical system. Consequently, California must sometimes pay neighboring states to take the excess energy to avoid overloading the grid. In effect, Diablo Canyon has become a roadblock to renewable energy.
PG&E acknowledged this reality in its application to the CPUC for the conditions of shutdown in 2025: “Given California’s energy goals that require increasing reliance on renewables – at least 50 percent by 2030 – the California electric system will need more flexible resources to integrate renewable energy and has less need for baseload electricity resources. PG&E’s need for baseload power from Diablo Canyon will decrease after 2025.”
Ms. Hoff is correct that when the San Onofre nuclear power plant closed because of radiation leaks, its output was replaced by fossil fuels. But that was a sudden shutdown, with no time to plan ahead. The Diablo closure, on the other hand, comes with nine years for the state to plan replacement power from renewable sources, as PG&E announced in the Joint Proposal in 2016.
Let’s stop creating radioactive wastes that have nowhere to be stored safely for the hundreds of thousands of years it will remain lethal. Instead, let’s show our love for the generations to come by moving to renewable sources of energy supported by conservation, energy efficiency and a variety of technologies for energy storage. California is off to a good start. Let’s stay on course.