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Why California May Go Nuclear

Diablo Canyon Power PlantLast week, a California state legislator introduced an amendment to the state’s constitution that would classify nuclear energy as “renewable.” If the amendment passes, it would likely result in the continued operation of the state’s last nuclear plant, Diablo Canyon, well past 2025, its current closure date.

Diablo generates 9% of California’s electricity and 20% of its clean, carbon-free electricity. It is also the most spectacular nuclear plant in the world, made famous by an employee's photo of a humpback whale breaching in front of the plant.

“I’m not going to argue it’s not a long shot,” said the legislation’s sponsor, Assemblymember Jordan Cunningham. “But we can’t make a serious dent in slowing the warming trend in the world without investment in nuclear power.”

If Governor Gavin Newsom decides to support the legislation it would likely become law and Diablo Canyon could continue operating to 2045 or even 2065.

“No more spreading junk science,” Newsom tweeted yesterday. “There is no planet B -- there’s only this one for us.”


Bob Meinetz's picture

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Sep 3, 2019 2:13 pm GMT

It is also the most spectacular nuclear plant in the world

I'm curious to hear more, Bob. What sets Diablo apart from other nuclear plants? 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Sep 3, 2019 3:49 pm GMT

I don't know why Michael Shellenberger considers Diablo Canyon "the most spectactular nuclear plant in the world," Matt. I've toured DCPP and several other nuclear plants - of all, it appears to be the most modern and technologically-advanced. But being in Silicon Valley's back yard I kind of expected that.

Michael is probably disgusted, as I am, that such a valuable asset for fighting climate could be destroyed simply because PG&E can make more money selling gas. He gets carried away - as I do.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Sep 3, 2019 9:20 pm GMT

PG&E making more money selling gas after Diablo shuts down?  Huh? Who would they be selling this gas to?

Its more likely they will getting out of the NG business before then - if they can find a buyer.  

PG&E is considering selling its gas business, according to people familiar with the matter, as the utility owner faces $30 billion in potential liabilities from wildfires in 2017 and 2018 that left more than 100 dead. The company’s market value has dropped more than 80 percent in three months -- to about $4.1 billion -- and it plans to file for Chapter 11 as early as next week.

On paper, PG&E Corp.’s natural gas network looks like it could fetch a nice price as the company prepares to file for bankruptcy: The system has 4.3 million customers and generates $4 billion in annual revenue.

In reality, California’s largest utility may find that the state’s ambitious environmental goals and stringent regulatory climate stand to limit the pool of interested buyers.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Sep 6, 2019 6:29 am GMT

Your source is 8 months old, Joe. FERC recently ordered PG&E to construct 2 gigawatts of firm generation as part of its bankruptcy exit plan. Not coincidentally, Diablo Canyon's capacity is 2.2 GW.

The smart dirty money in California is on gas, the smart clean money is on nuclear. Renewables aren't even part of the picture.

A Texan's Big Bet on a Fossil-Fuel Future for California

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Sep 7, 2019 6:20 pm GMT

Bob ,

You said:

The smart dirty money in California is on gas, the smart clean money is on nuclear. Renewables aren't even part of the picture.

I can provide links that show that billions will be spent over next few years on renewables in CA. Can you provide a link showing us the "smart clean money" that is on nuclear? Thanks.

As for the "smart dirty money" -  the  link you provided illustrates just how bad NG is doing in CA.  

First of all the investor you link to bought a bankrupt NG plant

Mr. Beal’s interest arises from his 2017 purchase — through Beal Bank — of the La Paloma natural gas power plant in California’s Central Valley, which had fallen into bankruptcy as the state faced a glut of generating power.

And by the way, he lost in his attempt to have FERC force CAISO to develop a capacity market. Not looking smart so far.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rejected Mr. Beal’s complaint in November, saying La Paloma had failed to identify any specific unjust or unreasonable fees that harmed fossil-fuel plants. But he is appealing, and the panel’s makeup is changing.

This investor may have gotten La Paloma really cheap and maybe he is hoping that a Trumpified FERC will modify this decision and CAISO will end up with a capacity market in the future.

He better hope so, he sure isn't making any money from La Paloma generation. See below.


Finally, here are CAISO numbers for August. NG losing more ground.  Renewables almost double in last five years, NG down by a third and Nuclear - flat.

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