Outrun Change

We need to learn quickly to keep up with the massive change around us so we don't get run over. We need to outrun change.

Last 2 zero-emission power plants in California will be shut down.

Natural gas turbine power plant. Replacement power source for 75% of the power from Diablo Canyon nuclear plants. Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Natural gas turbine power plant. Replacement power source for 75% of the electricity from Diablo Canyon nuclear plants. Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock.

PG&E agrees to close Diablo Canyon in 2025. San Luis Obispo Tribune reports on 6/21 that PG&E decided not to apply for another 20 year license and will close the two nuclear reactors in 2025.

The massive loss of electricity generation capacity will be replaced by intermittent renewables, both solar and wind. At least that is the company line being feed to the public.

These are the last nuclear power plants in California after San Onofre closed in 2012.

The Diablo Canyon facility provides 9% of the power that is generated in the state. One out of every ten watts.

Here is what I learned by stretching my brain while browsing Wikipedia:

There are two separate reactors at Diablo Canyon with capacities of 1,122 MWe and 1,118 MWe. I think that means megawatt equivalents. In other words the capacity is equal to 2,240 megawatts. In 2006 unit one operated at 101.2% of capacity and unit two operated at 88.2%.

At San Onofre, unit one was closed in 1992, with units two and three now in process of decommissioning. The operating units generate 1,080 MWe when operating at 100% capacity. That is a total of 2,160 MWe.

So between Diablo Canyon and San Onofre, we have or will lose about 4,400 megawatt of round the clock, baseline load of electricity generation.

Even though nuclear reactors have zero emissions of CO2, they don’t count toward the renewable energy goals.

Let’s do a back of the envelope calculation on what it will take to replace that 2.2 gigawatt capacity at Diablo Canyon.

At 1 MW per wind turbine that will require 2,240 bird slicers. Since the slice-and-dice turbines run at about 30% of capacity (keep in mind this is a back of the envelope calculation) that will require something in the range of 7,500 wind turbines. And that assumes development of a highly expensive technology to store that amount of energy. Oh, that technology does not exist today. Oh, and there will need to be a high percentage of that capacity backed up by new natural gas turbines.

It would require guessing beyond what I could possibly do to figure out how many condors, bald eagles, golden eagles, other raptors, sundry migratory birds, and bats will be killed while operating that many wind turbines (7,500 new turbines might just mean the end of the California Condor as well as clear out of all the eagles in a large portion of the state). And the increased cost for backup natural gas peaker facilities. And the increased carbon footprint from the peakers. And the increased carbon from trucking all the concrete to the 7,500 new turbines. And the environmental damage from mining thousands of tons of rare earth minerals to make all the tower turbines.

Increased carbon output after closing the reactors

There are a lot of articles pointing out that closing two nuclear reactors will increase the amount of carbon pumped into the air. Here are just two.

6/22 – Environmental Progress – How do we know the anti-Diablo Canyon Proposal would increase emissions? We read the fine print. – The 17,600 gigawatt hours (according to the article) of zero emission electricity produced by Diablo Canyon will go away in a few years. What are the low emission sources that PG&E will bring on line? Here is the entire plan for replacement power:

  • 2,000 gigawatt-hours per year reduced energy consumption through efficiency
  • 2,000 gigawatt-hours per year additional sources with no global greenhouse gases by 2025

That’s it: only 2 gigawatt hours of replacement power from unreliable energy sources.

That leaves the only option for 13.6 GWh of lost power to be new natural gas turbines with the inevitable higher carbon output than nuclear. That assumes they can conjure up 2GWh of efficiency savings and actually persuade everyone with a straight face they get credit for the savings and that there’s not actual customers expecting that much energy to be available when they flip a switch at night.

Assuming only 13.6 GWh still needs to be replaced, that means 77.3% of the output from the Diablo Canyon reactor will come from natural gas. And let’s don’t even consider that some of that may have to come from coal.

6/28 – Daily Caller – Getting Rid of California’s Last Nuclear Reactor Will Increase CO2 Emissions – Article says Friends of the Earth and Natural Resource Defense Council are the drivers behind persuading PG&E to shut down Diablo Canyon.

Shutting down the reactors at San Onofre increased CO2 production by 9 million metric tons a year. That is equated with putting 2 million more cars on the road for a full year.

Not mentioned in any of the articles I glanced at is the increased cost of electricity.

Can someone give me some help here?

(Yeah, yeah, I know. I need all the help I can get.)

Can someone with a bigger brain than me explain why massively increasing the amount of CO2 is considered environmentally friendly?

Or why a huge increase in the annual bird kill is considered environmentally friendly?

Or why willfully increasing the cost of electricity for poor people and thus intentionally making poor people poorer is considered to be moral?

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