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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Matthews: Give Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant More Work

California can continue to claim the title of international energy leader.

Or California could shut down its last operating nuclear power plant.

But he cannot do both.

According to the 2018 agreement, Diablo Canyon on the coast of San Luis Obispo County is to close when its operating licenses expire in 2025. That it is indeed closing is a major test for the Californians’ pledged commitment to transform themselves. terrible future.

Do we have the courage and imagination to take smart risks in response to climate change? Right now, our fears are winning – and setting the stage for a discussion about Diablo.

The concerns about the closure of the plant are understandable. The nuclear power plant is located near seismic faults. There are political concerns about crossing the border with environmental and local groups who want the site to be closed. In addition, there are fears that the error-prone plant owner, PG&E, will not be able to keep up with the costs of operating the plant safely and could make a fatal mistake there.

Unfortunately, those who want the plant to remain open also base their arguments on fear. They fear what heralds the loss of a plant that produces 9 percent of the state’s electricity as California’s grid can no longer meet demand. They fear that Diablo Canyon’s carbon-free and weather-free renewable energy will be replaced by natural gas installations that contribute to climate change.

In this competition of fears, neither side views Diablo as an ineffective asset. When viewed through the lens of practical possibility rather than apocalyptic fear, Diablo should be viewed as an opportunity to develop creative energy to solve a myriad of California problems.

Fortunately, we have this prism thanks to an unusual new Diablo study by Stanford and MIT. In short, his argument: Instead of rushing to shut down Diablo, let’s leave the factory open and ask for more.

The study begins by saying that expanding Diablo’s operations could reduce carbon emissions and save money for ordinary Californians who pay some of the nation’s highest electricity rates. The benefits of this could increase if Diablo was adapted for more than just electricity.

Interestingly, the study suggests that adding a desalination plant at this site could produce as much fresh water as the controversial Delta tunnel project. Diablo’s nuclear power could also be used to produce more of the zero-carbon hydrogen fuel that governments need to move towards carbon neutrality.

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The study says the Diablo Canyon can do all three of its tasks at the same time: providing electricity, desalinating water, and producing hydrogen. The authors predict that this “polygeneration configuration” will make the plant more valuable by reducing the incentive to close it.

When the 2025 closure was approved in 2018, there was no such opportunity. Other realities have also changed. Dry conditions and water shortages have worsened, power outages have increased, and California and the world have learned more about the value of reliable nuclear power in stabilizing the electricity grid during the transition to renewables.

The study makes clear the widespread opposition to nuclear energy, as well as the political and regulatory hurdles holding Diablo open. The plant will have to go through a federal re-licensing process and receive new approvals for plans for desalination, hydrogen production, and a new system to reduce the amount of water taken from the ocean.

But taking risks is never easy. So is global leadership. And a nuclear-free California would not be able to model much for many countries where nuclear power is part of a carbon phase-out.

The good news is that we will have allies if we change course and reinvest in Diablo Canyon. Leading federal officials, including current Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and her predecessors (notably Nobel laureate in physics and Californian Steven Chu), are pushing for the plant to remain open.

It would be good to have a public discussion before Diablo closes, not based on fears, but on figuring out a better plan for the future. Any practical assessment of Diablo must confirm that the plant already exists and is operating safely. Even if the facility is closed, nuclear material with associated risks will remain at the site.

So why not use this little bit of Californian land, less than 600 acres, by all means? Let’s start with the Diablo we know and give it more work to do.

Joe Matthews is a columnist for Connecting California for Zócalo Public Square.

World Nation News Deskhttps://www.worldnationnews.com
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