Published on September 21st, 2016 | by Glenn Meyers
Backlash on Planned Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant Closure
UtilityDIVE has reported local mayors and nuclear energy supporters now represent parties challenging Pacific Gas & Electric’s plan to close the 2,240 MW Diablo Canyon nuclear plant and replace it with a combination of renewables and efficiency.
Presently, six mayors of cities in San Luis Obispo County, where the plant is located, filed with regulators last week, asking them to deny the plan due to inadequate planning for its impacts on surrounding communities. They also asked for a third-party to review long-term effects of the closure and for PG&E to disclose nuclear waste plans for the site.
According to the report, nuclear backers, including the nonprofit Environmental Progress, filed for rejection of the plan, arguing PG&E used “false” cost data to substantiate its case and that closing the plant will raise carbon emissions. PG&E officials say there is “no basis” for those claims.
Issue: The cost of nuclear verses renewables
When PG&E announced it would close the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant after 2025, the cost of the plant was a main driver.
Due to more renewable energy and greater efficiency, PG&E has calculated it will not need to run the Diablo Canyon plant 24/7 after 2025.
Adding in the cost of expected upgrades and maintenance, the utility estimated it would cost $0.10/kWh to operate the plant if its license were extended in that year — more than double what it had expected. However, in a Sept. 15 filing, Environmental Progress argues the utility overestimated the costs to comply with California’s once-through cooling (OTC) regulations for power plants, and that the plant would still be cheaper than many alternative sources with the upgrade.
“PG&E’s entire CPUC Application to raise rates rests on this cost information. As such, the CPUC — bound by law to protect ratepayers over special interests — cannot allow PG&E to raise rates,” Environmental Progress President Michael Shellenberger wrote in a statement.
Ralph Cavanagh, lead negotiator for the Natural Resources Defense Council in the Diablo Canyon closure deal, contends the cost estimates came from the plant operator itself and that PG&E had no reason to inflate them.
“The reason PG&E did this is they took a hard look at the long-term economics of operating the plant beyond its current license,” he told Utility Dive. “The contention that somehow there is no chance that PG&E would have to install cooling towers, for example, PG&E itself disagrees with that.”
Even in the face of nuclear power downsizing in the US, Environmental Progress has been one of the most vocal opponents of the closure proposal since PG&E announced the plan in June, calling parties to the deal “corrupt” and implying they may have been “acting illegally.”
PG&E, which will file reply comments by Sept. 26, said that while Environmental Progress may disagree with their cost estimates,
“There is no merit to Environmental Progress’ claims regarding information that was used to support the Diablo Canyon cost estimates in the joint proposal application, specifically information regarding once-through cooling requirements,” spokesperson Blair Jones wrote in an email. “PG&E clearly stated in its testimony that once-through cooling mitigation cost estimates were included in its forecast that detailed the cost of continuing to operate Diablo Canyon, and made available detailed information as to how these costs were calculated. PG&E was also quite clear that the once-through cooling mitigation costs were estimates, not actual costs.”
Image via PG&E