Friday, March 23, 2012

Concentric Circles of Irony

San-Onofre-Nuclear-Generating-Station-1Almost too awful:

If a crisis over Iran curbs the supply of liquefied natural gas while Japan's nuclear fleet is shut, it could cause an economic impact greater than that from the March 2011 earthquake, the former executive director of the International Energy Agency said Thursday.

With 20% of its gas and 80% of its oil coming through the Strait of Hormuz, Japan would face a "disastrous impact" from a crisis in the Middle East, said Nobuo Tanaka, now a global associate at Japan's Institute of Energy Economics. He spoke at an event in Washington sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Obviously, this is highly speculative. It’s worth pointing out, too, that all those nuclear facilities sitting around over there don’t depend on the Strait of Hormuz to get up and running. But Tanaka is right to make the warning – it isn’t only Japan that would face an energy crunch and some of those countries have fewer options than Japan.

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Over in California:

In a report presented to the Independent System Operator board Thursday, staffers said that in a major heat wave or transmission line outage during the peak season, South Orange County and the San Diego and Los Angeles areas could face energy shortages without the 2,200 megawatts of power generated by San Onofre.

This one is due to a new steam generator that isn’t working quite right and will keep the facility shut until it is fixed.

It’s probably a little early to start worrying about the summer, but not too early to emphasize the importance of San Onofre to Southern California, especially as advocates gather petitions to try to close California’s two nuclear facilities (Diablo Canyon is the other) via a ballot measure. This is in part a response to the accident at Fukushima Daiichi and in part a California thing – if a question can get onto the ballot, someone will get it there.

A state ballot initiative proposed for next fall would force California's two nuclear power plants to immediately shut down, causing rolling blackouts, spikes in electricity rates and billions of dollars in economic losses each year, a nonpartisan analyst has found.

Closing the plants this way is likely not possible, as only the NRC can close a nuclear facility and then only for safety reasons. That was reconfirmed in Vermont recently. But in any event, San Onofre is in an excellent, terrible position to demonstrate what doing without the plant can mean – and hopefully, that won’t happen.

Even more than in Japan, the situation in California feels a bit like watching concentric circles of irony intersect each other, doesn’t it?

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I guess another definition for this would be absurdity. But no – for that, we’ll always have Germany.

“After deciding to exit nuclear energy, it seems as if Ms. Merkel’s coalition stopped its work,” said Sigmar Gabriel, a former environment minister and the leader of the opposition Social Democrats. “There is great danger that this project will fail, with devastating economic and social consequences.”

Ms. Merkel conceded in her weekly podcast that, “of course, we need a lot of new investment” for the plan to be carried out. But she insisted that her decision was the right choice.

Because, really, what else can she do?

San Onofre Generating Station.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sorry to be persnickety, but if circles are indeed concentric, they don't intersect. (I've decided not to bring up the issue of whether circles, concentric or intersecting, have anything to do with irony.)

--E. Michael Blake