The reaction to the closure of San Onofre in the California Press has been mixed, to say the least. The anti-nuclear feeling out there has faded a bit, as demonstrated by the failure to get enough signatures for ballot measure to close San Onofre and Diablo Canyon, but there’s still a fair amount of it.
Still, this leads to a Jekyll-Hyde response to the closure. Here, as exhibit A, is the Sacramento Bee. Take it away, Jekyll:
But San Onofre and California's one remaining nuke, Diablo Canyon, delivered more than 15% of the state's electricity. San Onofre, located in northwest San Diego County, supplied power to 1.4 million homes. The plant cannot be replaced solely with sun and wind, at least not with current technology.
Still to be answered: Will the bills of Edison customers go up because of the utility's need to purchase more expensive power from elsewhere?
Your turn, Hyde:
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and anti-nuclear energy activists hailed the closure. Clearly, nuclear power long ago failed to live up to its promises.
Yes, clearly. At this point, Jekyll strangles Hyde:
But word that a huge source of California's electricity will be dark forever ought to jolt the governor [Jerry Brown], the official who will be held most responsible if California faces rolling blackouts this summer and beyond, as happened during [former Gov.] Gray Davis' truncated tenure.
And the two merge gracelessly:
California is leading the nation and in many respects the world into a future that embraces renewable energy. But the power grid -- and the economy -- will require reliable baseline power for the foreseeable future. With the San Onofre plant forever shuttered, there must be alternatives.
Reliable baseline power? Isn’t that the promise of nuclear power?
Over at the Los Angeles Times, Marc Lifsher makes sure the implications of the closure are clear:
Without that nuclear plant, which accounted for about 9% of the electricity generated in California, power supplies will be tight in parts of Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties for at least the next three summers, officials said. That means periods of reduced use of air conditioners, lights and swimming pool pumps for customers of Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric Co.
"Losing 2,250 megawatts from the system is a big deal, and if we ask for conservation, we need them to respond," said Steve Berberich, chief executive of the California Independent System Operator, which manages most of the state's long-distance electric transmission system from a control room in Folsom, east of Sacramento.
It’s a big deal.
The L.A. Times editorial blames Southern California Edison for the whole situation – which cannot really be true when dealing with a situation like this - but notes:
To its credit, Edison was trying to replace its old steam generators with ones that were better and safer when it contracted with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
Which isn’t nothing. Then, it’s back to the blame game.
The San Diego Union-Tribune is really unhappy:
As for a long-term fix, there is none in sight. California needs more power plants, but they’re not being built. California law prohibits the construction of new nuclear plants until the industry finds a way to permanently dispose of radioactive waste. The state also has a “loading order” law that says fossil-fuel burning plants, regardless of how efficient, should only be considered once efforts have been made to reduce demand and find power from renewable sources such as wind and solar.
Even before the decision was made to close San Onofre, state regulators said the idled plant presented “operational challenges” and warned that a severe heat wave could lead to rolling blackouts. ISO officials also expressed concern over the potential threat from wildfires to transmission lines carrying imported power into the region.
Feels like our very own slice of Germany, doesn’t it?
The theme linking all these stories and editorials together is the fear of shortages that could occur because California makes it so difficult for most energy sources to thrive. It already imports about 40 percent of its electricity and if the spigot slows for any reason or for any length of time, California’s resources will thin out. Californians have seen this happen-they really don’t want to see it again. And yet, San Onofre and SoCal Edison got boxed in.
To repeat the statement made by NEI spokesman Steve Kerekes two posts down:
He said that “this situation underscores the need for an efficient and effective regulatory process that results in timely decisions on the operation of these critical energy resources.” He said that independent firms had endorsed plans to restart San Onofre’s Unit 2 and that “it’s simply intolerable to delay decisions that impact millions of customers and the company’s obligation to provide electricity to those customers.”
That’s about the size of it – and California is now waking up to the implications.
Speaking of news, “All Things Considered,” will include a piece today on San Onofre closure impacts in California and relevance to the nuclear energy industry more broadly. NEI will be represented.