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California Nuclear Update: PG&E Looking at New Nuclear Build

From today's San Francisco Chronicle:
PG&E Corp. is considering investments in new nuclear plants outside California as a way to curb greenhouse gases, Chief Executive Officer Peter Darbee said Tuesday at an employee meeting on energy efficiency and climate change.

Other possible investments include solar power plants that use focused mirrors to heat water, generate steam and run electrical turbines.

California law forbids building more nuclear plants within the state until the United States has a permanent site for storing radioactive waste. But Darbee, whose San Francisco company owns the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant near San Luis Obispo, argues that the country needs nuclear power if it hopes to fight global warming.
Back in September 2005, NEI CEO Skip Bowman gave a speech at LA Town Hall entitled, "Why American Needs Nuclear Energy Now".

Here's an excerpt:
Here in California, replacing the San Onofre and Diablo Canyon nuclear power plants with alternate fossil electricity sources would mean an additional 16.5 million tons of carbon dioxide, by our analysis. That'’s the equivalent of emissions from one-sixth of all the cars in the state.

These four reactors also helped prevent the emission of more than 9,500 tons of nitrogen oxides. To get the same impact, you would have to pull more than 500,000 cars off the road.


As I read through the Environmental Impact Report prepared by the California PUC on the San Onofre project, the wisdom of steam generator replacement became more and more clear and compelling.

For example, replacing more than 2,000 megawatts of capacity at San Onofre with combined-cycle gas-fired capacity would require construction of four to five new gas-fired plants, the Commission said in its analysis of alternatives. In addition, the new gas-fired plants would require new gas pipeline capacity to bring in the fuel, as well as new transmission lines and new or upgraded substations to carry the electricity to market.

The California PUC'’s environmental report also evaluated renewable energy alternatives to San Onofre. The PUC said that although these technologies "“do not rely on a finite supply of fossil fuel, consume little water and generate either zero or reduced levels of air pollutants and hazardous wastes ... these technologies do cause environmental impacts."”

The PUC concluded that all the renewable alternatives "“have unique technical feasibility limitations. High costs and, in some cases, limited dispatchability, inhibit their market penetration."
California would do well to give nuclear energy a second look.

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Anonymous said…
So far, every proposed new nuclear unit has been at an existing facility. California has the problem that they can't build in state. That leaves one option: Palo Verde units 4,5,6.... and so on.

Joseph Somsel said…
Alternatively, there is Washington State, as with the Columbia station. However, that would require some transmission upgrades.
Anonymous said…
Columbia is going to provide the power to Oregon since Oregon has a 'no new nukes' law too.

That's a REALLY long way to ship power. It is done for the hydro, but for any other power source I don't think it's feasable. The loss approaches 30% at that distance.

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