California Goes Nuclear Free As Diablo Canyon Closes In Favor Of Renewables

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California, the world’s sixth largest economy, has announced it will go nuclear free as it replaces the Diablo Canyon nuclear reactors with renewable energy.

6517596951_bd03d24feb_bCalifornian utility PG&E announced a Joint Proposal with labor and leading environmental organizations this week that intends to increase investment in energy efficiency, renewables, and energy storage, beyond current state mandates, while at the same time phasing out nuclear power in California by 2025. Specifically, PG&E announced that it intends to replace the two nuclear reactors at Diablo Canyon with “a cost-effective, greenhouse gas free portfolio of energy efficiency, renewables, and energy storage.”

And according to the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC), the PG&E’s Joint Proposal could end up saving its customers at least $1 billion

“Energy efficiency and clean renewable energy from the wind and sun can replace aging nuclear plants — and this proves it. The key is taking the time to plan. Nuclear power versus fossil fuels is a false choice based on yesterday’s options,” said NRDC President Rhea Suh. “The Diablo Canyon solution is the way of the future. Even as nuclear plants near retirement, we can cut our carbon footprint with energy efficiency and renewable power. Our families, our businesses and our children will be the better for it.”

The Joint Proposal also includes a commitment from PG&E to a 55% renewable energy target in 2031, a legitimately “unprecedented voluntary commitment by a major US energy company.”

“This is an historic agreement,” said Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth. “It sets a date for the certain end of nuclear power in California and assures replacement with clean, safe, cost-competitive, renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy storage. It lays out an effective roadmap for a nuclear phase-out in the world’s sixth largest economy, while assuring a green energy replacement plan to make California a global leader in fighting climate change.”

“California’s energy landscape is changing dramatically with energy efficiency, renewables and storage being central to the state’s energy policy,” said PG&E Corporation Chairman, CEO and President Tony Earley. “As we make this transition, Diablo Canyon’s full output will no longer be required. As a result, we will not seek to relicense the facility beyond 2025 pending approval of the joint energy proposal. Importantly, this proposal recognizes the value of GHG-free nuclear power as an important bridge strategy to help ensure that power remains affordable and reliable and that we do not increase the use of fossil fuels while supporting California’s vision for the future.”

“PG&E will immediately cease any efforts on its part to renew the Diablo Canyon operating licenses,” PG&E said in its press release, “and will ask the NRC to suspend consideration of the pending Diablo Canyon license renewal application pending withdrawal with prejudice of the NRC application upon California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approval of the Joint Proposal Application.”

“Supporting this is a coalition of labor and environmental partners with some diverse points of view,” added PG&E CEO Tony Earley. “We came to this agreement with some different perspectives—and we continue to have some different perspectives—but the important thing is that we ultimately got to a shared point of view about the most appropriate and responsible path forward with respect to Diablo Canyon and how best to support the state’s energy vision.”

Image Credit: Nuclear Regulatory Commission, via Flickr

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Joshua S Hill

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148 thoughts on “California Goes Nuclear Free As Diablo Canyon Closes In Favor Of Renewables

  • Saving a billion or more dollars sounds like they are doing something right. Replacing nuclear with lower priced renewable energy and storage.

    Then the other shoe drops. They will only be replacing a fraction of the nuclear power because it is not all needed.

    So naturally they can come to some sort of agreement.

    • “They will only be replacing a fraction of the nuclear power because it is not all needed.”

      Diablo Canyon is the only operating nuclear power plant in california. All others in the state were shut down years ago. They are not replacing a fraction of it, They have commited to replacing all of it in california.

      • You misunderstood. They are only replacing a fraction of the nuclear power Diablo Canyon is producing. And if it is anything like San Onofre there will be people working there, clean up crews and such, for longer than any of us will be alive.

        • Diablo canyon produces about 8.5% of the states power per year. The state currently has enough natural gas capacity to handle the sudden loss of Diablo canyon. Currently the state gets about 25% of is electrical power from renewables. The state now requires 50% of all electrical power from renewables by 2030.

          The state is not replacing a fraction of the nuclear energy produced. They are replacing all of it plus all the coal a lot of the natural gas power produced.

          • Kind of. When I said “fraction” I meant that PG&E through efficiency measures will reduce the amount of energy needed. This is their first step of the proposal. That will take them up to 2024. Between 2025 and 2030 they’ll purchase GHG energy sources and possibly more efficiencies. See

  • A good step forward, but I’d prefer if they focused on replacing coal/natural gas plants first…

    If I were a resident of CA of course.

    • They’re not rushing to close it down even though it costs $70/MWh.

      • Yeah, waiting 9 years is pretty slow-moving.

        • Not really, when you consider how much new capacity it’d take to match Diablo Canyon’s output.
          Take today’s world’s largest solar farm (incidentally in California), Solar Star, 579 MW(AC). It took 2 ½ years to build, which is pretty quick for a project this size. It produced 1.66 TW⋅h last year.
          We’d need a dozen of those, plus some storage (which could be thermal with concentrated solar; see Crescent Dunes). Surely doable, but not exactly something that will happen overnight.

          • Damned NIMBYs will try and stop Wyoming to CA high voltage lines.

          • There are already pre existing lines, so the right of way is there even if it needs to be expanded.

          • A little more detail. I don’t know about Wyoming to Utah if there is a pre existing transmission corridor there, but Utah to SouthWest was already a transmission line for now defunct coal power plants. The plan is to convert the route to HVDC. HVDC takes up less space per power transferred.

            “The Transwest Express — a $3 billion, 3,000 megawatt capacity, 725 mile high voltage direct current (HVDC) line — would carry Wyoming winds with a capacity factor well over 40% along a route through Utah, Colorado, and Nevada. Interconnections in Utah and at the Hoover Dam could take wind-generated electricity as far as Los Angeles.”

            “It was easier and faster in Milford, Utah, where a DC transmission line runs through, carrying the Intermountain Power Plant’s coal-generated electricity to Los Angeles.”


          • This could also allow sales of excess solar power back to Wyoming and Utah.

          • Thanks for the article. Given the age of the project and the advances in HVDC, I wonder how hard it would be to submit modifications to their application and go for a 6GW (800kV) line rather than the currently planned 600kV line. Wyoming has the best land based wind resource in the country.

          • Yes. This kerfuffle will blow over. There is too much money to ignore. I expect there is some fossil fuel mischief in the legislature.
            There is a spot in high altitude south eastern Wyoming that is exceptional. There are also vast reaches of Montana that are largely untapped. BPA has been impeding progress in getting electricity to WA and OR from there. The area is awash in low carbon electricity with abundant hydro and wind. Expanding the west coast intertie would be welcome.
            There are areas of good offshore wind north of San Francisco, and a bit less so, off SoCal. If you look at the wind maps, they show at large prominences or sudden turns in the relatively straight coastline.
            The beauty of offshore wind off the West Coast is its strength and regularity.

          • “There are areas of good offshore wind north of San Francisco”

            Yes, pretty awesome wind off northern coast but if my memory serves, water is deep so it awaits floating wind platforms before it can be developed extensively.

          • Incredible wind resources just off the coast in Northern California (San Francisco is Central California, the Middle Kingdom, to those of us who live in the real NorCal)

            Floaters are developing rapidly.

            The map below shows both offshore wind and existing transmission lines.

            The Intermountain Intertie runs from the LA area up to Utah. Extend that route on into Wyoming and tie it into Montana.

            Hook it to the Pacific Intertie by going west. Then most of the area west of the Rockies can share the wind, solar, hydro and geothermal wealth of the western states.

            Minimize overbuilding and storage.


          • Nice graphic. It would be helpful if NREL would update it to use 100m and 140m hub heights! In any event it really helps understand why the CFs have remained low. Very little transmission access at the best sites.

          • Higher towers aren’t needed offshore. The relatively flat surface of the ocean doesn’t create that buildings, trees and hills cause.

            Here’s a wind map for 140 meter onshore. A mixed on/offshore map using 140 onshore height would be nice.


          • “Higher towers aren’t needed offshore.” Good point.

            Interestingly, that map refers to “reflective of turbines in development”. The anti-renewables crowd loves to portray that as pie-in-the-sky. But it is a 2014 map, and in 2015 GE announced a 155m turbine so it would appear that NREL can be relied upon. And of course Enercon has had a 140m turbine out for a while now but it is not being sold in the US.

          • That’s fascinating. I guess this is NREL so they only look at the US, but looking at that map, I now want to know the wind resources in northern Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. If the trend visibile in North Dakota and Montana holds up, they could have *massive* wind potential.

            Which is great because the solar potential in winter that far north is pretty poor.

          • “Which is great because the solar potential in winter that far north is pretty poor.”

            No worse than Germany, and they use a lot of solar power.

          • Are the units on the legend (sq km) correct? How do you measure Wind Potential Capacity in sq km? The map itself represents a surface area. I’d have expected some measure of the power output from the specified turbine if it was located in the legend colour area.

          • Offshore wind is still at $4,500/kW. Capacity factors would be marginally better than the best onshore sites, but don’t know if it would be competitive given that additional capital cost.

          • Everything from 2/3 up CA to Canada is red or blue, which is much better than any of winds in the windy plains. Even the rest of CA offshore is as windy. So just need those floaters. Notice the the east coast from NC up is red, and they don’t need floaters. This is why I have to question transmission from the plain states to the east or west cost. Is on shore plus transmission cheaper than offshore with better wind?

          • Onshore with transmission is, I think, cheaper at this point in time. Hard to say how things will be ten years from now.

            There may be other factors other than simple cost. There’s the time of production issue. And whether the sending (wind) area might need to import solar or hydro when the wind isn’t blowing.

            Wyoming wind, IIRC, picks up about the time the Sun is going down on the West Coast. Great for time of delivery into the late afternoon/early evening peak. And Wyoming could probably use some SW solar during the winter.

          • Solar output is low in the winter, plus doesn’t match the time-of-day load peaks, so the argument is relatively weak that it would offer much to WY or the Pacific NW.

          • Floating platforms are a known and implemented design, but so far only in lakes I think? Might be stormier at sea.

          • “Floating platforms are a known and implemented design….”

            They are? It’s news to me.

          • Kansas winds are actually better, with plant capacity factors in the 45-50% range today. But WY winds are not far behind that.

          • Would love to get my hands on high CF data for KS sites. Do you have a source for your 45%-50% CF numbers?

          • 3 billion dollars! That is surprising. In general high voltage lines run about $400,000 mile, even buried they are $1million mile. At most I would have expected 725 million cost. Are they including the turbine costs?

          • I need to look further, but one other parameter is the capacity. The units are also expressed with capacity, not just per mile. A lower capacity low voltage AC line would be cheaper than a higher capacity HVDC line but the cost/MW-mile might be lower.

          • Buried lines are more like $5 million/mile. Overhead lines are $2-4 million per mile, depending on location and terrain.

          • Much/most of those planned new renewables are needed to bring the renewables from circa 20% today to 50%. Replacing Diablo Canyon is on top of what is needed to go from 20 to 50 percent.

          • Is it your thinking that no more will be added to the current project pipeline for the next 9 years? If so, could you provide some insight into that position?

          • I don’t really have an opinion/prediction on what is going to be done. I sure hope we keep adding to the pipeline, but I’m not the one making the decisions.

          • California put most of its 10GW utility solar up in the years since 2012. Surely 10GW more in 9 years is going to be possible.

          • The argument from the nuclear crowd is that the additional renewables that will be installed could be used to offset gas if they left the nuclear plant in operation. But with 4X the energy production capability already in the pipeline and 9 years to go, it appears that all bases are covered and that is a weak argument.

            The remaining issue is to address the intermittency but much of that can come from load shifting and decorrelated wind from WY, particularly if they build the tall towers and get North of 50% CF and possibly North of 60% as is discussed here –

          • That’s right. The really high and steady winds in WY coupled with tall towers could have high ELCC, or load matching. Lost in discussions of renewables is that load matching matters more than Capacity Factor.

            Time to get on with it. Old plants need to be replaced, that’s all, just a question of deciding how to proceed. This is a relatively benign development, with a nine year transition giving easily enough time to replace it with solar, wind, and geothermal. Some of the solar can be CSP with storage. It’s gratifying that it is in the plans. It’s also quite disturbing how dependent California is on gas turbines. The recent gas leak has forced CA to retrench, reconsider, and scramble for more solar and wind to replace lost gas generation. It’s a microcosm of the troubles brewing behind reliance on natural gas.

          • “Lost in discussions of renewables is that load matching matters more than Capacity Factor.”

            Agreed. At the end of the article linked to above there is a discussion of ELCC along with links to more detailed/technical explanations.

          • Nine years is plenty of time to see battery prices fall with a thump.

          • Supposedly, Diablo Canyon produced around 18,000,000 MW-hours of electricity with it’s two reactors; or 18,000 GW-hours.

            The reactors are rated at 1122 and 1118 MW (if I remember correctly) and that equates to around 2.240 GW…so, very VERY roughly…work it out from there because I don’t want to embarrass myself lol

          • 1) You can do projects like Solar Star in parallel. Diable Canyon is done serially, it’s very hard to get the plant operational until it’s all complete. That’s a 10 year process.

            Doing 12 solar stars, or the like can be done in parallel and they can achieve early production as chunks come on line.

          • California solar is now about 10GW utility, and about 4GW distributed PV.

            Most of that growth happened in the last two years. I see no reason it could not be repeated. In fact, its even more likely as prices drop further. The mix may shift more to CSP with thermal storage as time goes on.


          • Except that PV with demand response (e.g. hot water), PV with wind, PV with transmission or PV with batteries is all cheaper and more flexible than CSP and also has no moving parts.

          • Yes. Agree very much so. You are one of the few that understands how impactful demand response and those others are. I include it because it’s getting cheaper and better and because a comprehensive system with a variety of means is most robust and pervasive.

          • Reviewed it. Do those PV numbers include the cost of inverter? That brings the cost out to more than $400/kwhr, I think.

          • Since $0.2/W).

          • It remains an interesting discussion for utility scale storage. That’s part of the question – scale. Market mechanisms for valuing storage of all kinds present some difficulty, but time of use rates and other things are changing that.

          • If utility scale storage (besides transmission, demand response and pumped storage) ever became a factor, then batteries would be more sensible than high temperature molten salt storage, because batteries are much more flexible and efficient.

            Btw, this project was initially supposed to be CSP (until it was not cost competitive compared to PV anymore):

          • Damn, California is ahead of the rest of the country by a *ridiculous* margin. Half the solar in the US is in California.

            I don’t think I realized how far behind the rest of us were. 🙁 At least in the snowbelt we have some excuse, but what excuse does the Sunbelt have?

          • None. Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas should all be just as good.

          • Germany installed 3 GW of PV in a single month:–high-of-3-000-mw-in-december-alone_100005398/#axzz4CNq3WoMN
            So, California should be able to install 1 GW of PV per month with an effective FIT-system too.

            California doesn’t need storage it can simply increase demand response (e.g. electrification of hot water), its interconnection to other states and curtail some rare peaks.
            BPA alone has 22 GW of flexible hydro power on tap:

          • Not overnight, but with solar power deployments doubling every three years, doing it within 9 years will be quite easy. Wind is being deployed quickly though not at the same rate, and within 9 years we should have a fair number of batteries deployed as well. Plus, the big energy efficiency push means California will probably actually be using less electricity.

        • i suspect they need 8-9 years to save up enough to shut down the plant. All of these plants are wildy underfunded for shutdown.

          • Yes indeed. Right now they are 1.2 billion short on decommissioning funds. They plan to raise rates to pay for it.

            Here is the bigger news. The decommissioning fund is 1.2 billion short.

            “Decommissioning the plant — removing most of its systems and buildings — will cost an estimated $3.8 billion. PG&E customers have, for decades, been slowly paying into a fund to cover that work, whenever it may have been needed. According to documents PG&E filed with the utilities commission in March, the fund had $2.6 billion in it by the end of 2015. PG&E has requested increasing electricity rates by about 51 cents per month to make up the shortfall.”


      • Coal is almost not getting burned in CA. Well under 1% of electricity, IIRC.

        But CA is still getting a few percent of coal electricity from out of state.

          • Fantastic news indeed! The same cannot be said about the UK, but we are trying…new wind turbines going up all the time!

          • UK is making incredible strides in my view. Coming from a heavily coal based economy to having solar and wind in much bigger amounts over a small period of time is impressive, particularly solar, since UK does not has as great solar resources as the desert southwest US. UK does have some incredibly nice wind resources though and solar is better than it first appears.

          • Yeah we’re way better than we used to be, and now one of the increasingly small number of European countries that actually meets all of its emissions quotas…

          • Yeah, it’s just a pity Cameron is trying to kill onshore wind. Hopefully he’ll be turfed out soon?

            If Spain can just get the anti-Rajoy forces coordinated, they should be able to repeal the “tax on the sun” and get their solar deployment back up and running.

            Unfortunately Germany now has an all-party agreement to sabotage solar and wind deployment, with arbitrary caps on wind installations, and their own “tax on the sun”! So they will fall behind.

      • California renewable portfolio standard required 20% renewables by 2010. It will be 33% in 2020. by 2030 it will be 50%. Most coal power plants in the state have been shut down or soon will be. The PUC also nolonger allows utilities to sign contracts for out of state coal power.

        • That’s great news, but I can’t help but look at countries like Norway/Germany where green power has been hammered through like an uncontrollable freight-train. It appears to be having some negative impact on peoples’ lifestyles – due to increased electricity prices – but surely it’s worth it in the long-run, isn’t it?

          • Over the last few years, as they have added renewables to their grid, Germans have seen the wholesale cost of of electricity fall.

            Retail prices have been high due to taxes and most of those taxes have nothing to do with energy, they’re general fund “sales taxes”.

            As the initial higher cost subsidy programs pay off retail costs will drop. Germans bought themselves cheaper electricity for the future and they’ve done the same for the rest of the world. Germany (along with Spain) created the market that started the price of solar panels on their rapid route.

            BTW, the average German monthly electricity bill is about $110. The average US monthly is about $100.


          • If human civilization survives Global Warming, Germany will deserve a large portion of the credit.

    • Usually, yes. But not in this case. I shudder every time I see a picture of Diablo. If memory serves, it is directly on an active fault line.

      • Good point and brilliant lack of foresight when it was built…

      • It’s actually on solid bedrock, which is good. Like pretty much the whole state, there are minor faults nearby but the chance of a surface fissure under the foundation is very small and there’s no amplification of strong ground motion. All the identified nearby faults shouldn’t be able to exceed .75g PGA which is roughly what the plant is certified to (there’s a spectral acceleration design profile that can be roughly correlated with PGA ). It’s rare but possible to exceed this PGA from unknown faults and this could damage the plant bad but I doubt a real meltdown could happen because of all the backup systems for emergency cooling. Its not perfect but I think the risks of meltdown from other unknown accidents are much more likely than earthquake risk.

        • Diablo Canyon also wasn’t constructed according to spec — a bunch of the earthquake-proofing stuff was actually done wrong because a diagram was backwards. Really. But the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said “no biggie, whatever”, because the NRC is awful.

          • It was the retrofit improving the PGA/Spectral acceleration to a PGA > .75G in the late 1970s where some support blueprints got mirrored. They didn’t have CAD back then so to step repeat/transform architectural details you manually flipped transparencies and vellum and stuff while making xerographic reproductions. Mistakes like this happen all the time – but usually the designers and engineers actually “ground truth” the installation before wet-stamping documents. The problem is that they didn’t figure it out until 1981 so they had to spent $2Billion+ more to fix that retrofit and check everything else. What a mess…. its good we don’t have to build these anymore.

      • Yeah I can see why that would cause distress :s

  • Here is the bigger news. The decommissioning fund is 1.2 billion short.

    “Decommissioning the plant — removing most of its systems and buildings — will cost an estimated $3.8 billion. PG&E customers have, for decades, been slowly paying into a fund to cover that work, whenever it may have been needed. According to documents PG&E filed with the utilities commission in March, the fund had $2.6 billion in it by the end of 2015. PG&E has requested increasing electricity rates by about 51 cents per month to make up the shortfall.”

    • these plants always cost way more to shut down.

      • It’s funny, even Republicans don’t seem to mention nuclear anymore.

        • In the aftermath of the 2011 Japan Fukushima nuclear disaster, Trump told Fox News “nuclear is a way we get what we have to get, which is energy.”
          “I’m in favor of nuclear energy, very strongly in favor of nuclear energy,” Trump said. “If a plane goes down people keep flying. If you get into an auto crash people keep driving.”

          • … And if a nuclear plant blows up people keep away from the vicinity for the next several thousand years.

    • Does that money also cover the Managment of the waste for 10,000 years or even worse the length of time it remains lethal to humans, 250,000 years?

      • Nope. Just carting it off and reducing the level of radioactivity at the site.

  • Big news I thought I would never see. I was a student at UC Davis in 1981 and participated in the big anti-nuclear protest at Diablo Canyon in September 1981,

    Of course at the time we were primarily motivated by concerns regarding the connection between the the nuclear power and weapons industry.

    • There is 1 nuke at watts bar that is being brought on line, two new ones being constructed at Vogtle, and two at Summer. That’s the end of it except for aircraft carriers, and subs. They are a bulk power generator that doesn’t follow load. Wind and solar are much cheaper. There is no future for nuclear.

      • The future for nuclear weapons looks … bright

        • True. And that’s a huge problem for the environment. While many successes in the past, proliferation pressure is now happening in Saudi/Iran and SKorea/Japan/Taiwan/Vietnam will build bombs to counter north Korea and China now that the US isnt able to police east Asia anymore.

          I think nuclear wars are inevitable now within our lifetimes and denser urban areas are at serious risk. Better to spread cities out to a point where weapons lose thier economic usefulness in war and harden the built environment to handle over pressure and fire.

          • There’s no affordable level of response by hardening or civil defence to nuclear weapons… and an EMP which is just as likely would cripple any nation.

          • If you build a city at lower density (like less than 6 per acre) and the core (windows are a lost cause unless with automated shudders) of houses/commercial buildings can withstand 8PSI+ (which can be done with a 25% increase in framing costs), then I think the advantage of nukes goes away. There’s a floor on the cost of the nukes, and creating the bulk of the built environment low density and 8PSI+ hardened puts a ceiling on their utility (at 8PSI only about a 2 mile radius will be destroyed by a 800kt bomb – bigger bombs have trouble evading ABMs so the cost shoots up). About 2/3rds of my house was just framed this way. For earthquake, insulation, and using some thicker windows, I had to use 3×8 studs and I had to double OSB sheath. I put in some extra purlins, rafter ties, and “C” braces in the gables. While it wasn’t my goal, I did some load calcs and it should be able to handle 8PSI overpressure. I also have automated external shudders (for aesthetic style not for survivalism). My roof, landscaping, and walls cannot catch on fire. Urban fire codes already mandate fire storm resistant construction in many areas including mine. It cost me very little extra to do this.

            It’s something the USA can do since it has lots of land, plentiful cheap wood, and enough wealth to use (hopefully in future electric and automated) cars for commuting. There’s other advantages – 8PSI hardened structures with automated shutters would be able to survive most weaker F3 and lower tornados, hurricanes, and earthquakes. People actually like to live at R6 densities.

            If we all did this (not much different than what we are doing in urban sprawl suburbs) only about 40,000 homes would be destroyed by a 800kt bomb, and if there’s advance warning only a couple thousand people or less would die. That’s about 16 billion in damage. If a 800kt bomb hit San Francisco, nearly all the housing and commercial real-estate would be destroyed causing about a trillion in damage.

          • All well and good, but in the UK – in Europe -where we are packed in close, it just makes no sense… it would bankrupt us and then we’d still be destroyed.
            Diplomacy, disarmament and peace are what we shall need to use.
            (I recently had the odd experience of looking around a cold war nuclear shelter in the Czech Republic… with the declassified SAC target list for the town on the wall).

          • A nuclear warhead can be launched only in two situations.

            1. Absolute power and no fear of retaliation. Like US did to Japan.

            2. A sucidal moronic group. Like terrorists. They will like nothing but the glory. Bigger the better.

            Fortunately, with modern controls, terrorist are unlikely to get hold of bombs. They do not have long term horizon to develop one and nobody will loan them one for fear of reprisal.

            Fortunately for mankind, there are more than one nation with the ability to destroy the Earth. This will prevent any nukes from being launched as no country enjoys that absolute power any more.

            My bet is that world has already seen the last attacks with nuclear weapons.

          • I hope you are right. I am pleased with the disarmament that has happened with US and Russia. Now a full exchange is far less scary.

            However, China’s advancements are significant and Russia’s new missiles are far better than ever before. There’s a new era of air-breathing cruise missiles coming down the pipe that will be invisible to radar or launch detection. North Korea is unpredictable and will likely be able to nuke about 50 US cities in about 10-15 years.

            We’ve been somewhat successful this year in persuading Japan to reduce their weapons-grade fissile stockpile – without this it’s been guessed that they could build about 200 bombs overnight. We’ve delayed Iran for a while and pointed a path to peace. We’ve been successful in getting RoC to not build a bomb as well in the 1970s and more recently been nudging RoK from doing same. Lots of hope and genuine goodwill in the region and many trade alliances point the path to prosperous peace. But it’s a house of cards over there. Any lack of credibility in the US commitment to east asia could start a multi-polar arms race.

          • You’ve overlooked at least one further situation: 3. Through mistake or accident.

            Perhaps it is less likely now that anyone will deliberately launch an attack, but an unintentional start of hostilities is still a serious possibility. There are several incidents in the history of the cold war where we pretty much only escaped nuclear disaster due to sheer luck and a few cool heads. Look up, for example, the B-59 submarine incident during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the 1979 NORAD computer simulation glitch, and the 1983 Serpukhov-15 false alarm.

            The sad fact is that there will always be some danger, no matter how “safe” the conditions appear to be. As long as these weapons exist, there’s a chance that somewhere, someday, someone will royally screw up, and royally screw us all.

          • The biggest worry regarding nuclear war is that the government of Israel is more and more likely to be a suicidal moronic group. Perhaps the second biggest worry is that the US military has been infested with deranged Christian extremists.

            None of the established governments, with the possible exception of Israel and rogue elements in the US, would ever consider a nuclear first strike. Not even North Korea.

          • Pretty much every country wants nuclear weapons to counter the risk of the UNITED STATES. We’re the rogue country they’re afraid of, the country which keeps making these deranged blundering destructive invasions. If we backed off, most of the other countries would stop trying to get nukes.

            Well, in the Middle East they’re afraid of the lunatic racist fascists running Israel. Those are the guys most likely to actually start a nuclear war, I think. So they’d need to be disarmed too.

            India and Pakistan are afraid of each other, but it actually seems to be a highly stable situation, more stable than the US-Russia Cold War.

          • We’ve screwed up a lot. But if the US backs out of east asia to a point where the “tigers” feel threatened, Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan will form a pack and build nuclear weapons to counter North Korea and China. This is what Trump was talking about a few months ago that created howls of protest; US backing out.

      • Watts Bar is having problems with its start up – google for details – not reported in US press I believe

  • That’s great news, but note that it is the Natural (not National) Resources Defense Council.

  • But will CA stop importing electrons from nuclear reactors in other states.

    Hope so!

    Italy shut down its nuclear reactors but kept buying electrons from reactors in France/Germany.

    I guess there is clever software to make sure the utilities in CA do not pay money to reactors in other states?

  • How is grid storage in California progressing?
    googling doesn’t give a clear picture… I know there are requirements by certain dates…

    • There’s some mandates to get about 1Gwh in the next few years. But it’s nowhere close to mitigating a nuclear plant to an equivalent level. Unless there’s a major breakthrough CA needs wind power from out of state to cover the loss of Diablo if it is to maintain a similar level of robust generation capacity.

      • Thanks…
        (though I suspect real use for grid storage in CA is for frequency response… when solar in rapid ramp down at end of day)

        • From batteries, yes. But pumped storage hydro, which PG&E mentions, has cost-effective storage durations up to 6, 8, 10 hours. That means it can do a lot more to serve as a firm capacity resource, in lieu of new gas, while absorbing solar overgeneration and making better use of wind. Win-Win-Win. Cost effective pumped storage will be California’s best tools.

      • California has very low nighttime heating load, so it’s not like they have the same sort of “we need lots of electricity in the night” problem that we have in the snowbelt.

        • I aggree. other than the spike in ellectricity usage at sunrise and near sunset most demand is during the day. There is very little demand at night. The current natural gas plants are more than sufficient to handle the night time load.

          Many state utilities are currently expecting that California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard will be increased beyond the 50% by 2030 requirement. And there is increasing interest in Concentrated Solar Power plants with molten salt storage. moltens salt CSP plant could then easily replace most of the natural gas plants.

    • Castaic pumped storage is about 1.2 GW and Helms is another 1.2GW and yes more balancing capability will be needed. Much may come from power trading with other regions. Pacific Northwest hydro, wind, Wyoming wind or other. Not sure of the best options but it is indeed more planning and implementation than simply putting 10GW of solar in. Any short term shutdown is immediately compensated with natural gas generation.

      • thanks!

  • I keep reading the CA is doing brown outs. Just wondering if that is true….

  • Diablo Canyon will be mostly replaced by natural gas and emissions will increase if the Joint Proposal by PG&E, IBEW 1245, and anti-nuclear groups is approved by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and upheld by the courts.

    Further, the percentage of electricity PG&E derives from low-carbon energy sources will decline from 58 to 55 percent.

    The Proposal claims it will replace the 17,660 gigawatt-hours of low-carbon electricity produced by Diablo Canyon with an equal amount of low-carbon electricity, but the details of the Proposal make clear that will not happen. The Proposal’s specifics mandate:

    1) 2,000 gigawatt-hours per year of reduced energy consumption through energy efficiency by 2025;

    2) Another 2,000 gigawatt-hours per year of “GHG free energy resources or energy efficiency” to come on line by 2025;

    3) There is no 3.

    That’s it: 4,000 gigawatt-hours per year of (mostly) energy efficiency and (maybe) renewable power to replace 17,660 gigawatt-hours from Diablo Canyon.

    Where will the remaining 13,660 gigawatt-hours come from? The Proposal doesn’t say, but the only source it can come from is natural gas.

    And with all of that natural gas will come 5.4 million tons of extra carbon dioxide emissions every year.

    What about energy storage? The Proposal itself admits, “energy storage, by itself, is not a source of energy,” which may be why it doesn’t bother setting storage targets.

    What about the 55 percent (of PG&E sales) Renewable Portfolio Standard by 2031 (to last through 2045)?

    That sounds good, but it starts 6 years after Diablo Canyon would close, and it’s actually a stepdown from PG&E’s current GHG free share of generation, which was 58 percent last year.

    So all the efficiency and renewables the Proposal mandates—or vaguely promises—would leave PG&E’s energy mix slightly dirtier in 2045 than it was in 2015—no progress at all for 30 years because of Diablo’s closure.

    And while it might constitute a nominal replacement (almost) of Diablo Canyon, it would likely come by buying Renewable Energy Certificates from out-of-state renewable plants, leaving California’s in-state generation markedly dirtier. Under that RPS mechanism, California has met its nominal renewables targets even as the GHG free share of in-state electricity generation has fallen by 20 percent over the last decade.

    The reason the Proposal doesn’t call for replacing Diablo with renewable energy is simple: California’s grid can’t handle it. The state is already struggling to integrate intermittent renewable power, and is having to curtail mid-day surges of solar to avoid destabilizing the grid.

    The Proposal acknowledges that Diablo must be closed to make room for curtailed solar. (Of course, replacing clean nuclear power with clean solar power does nothing for the climate, although its great for the solar industry.)

    But it also states that closure will “impact the efficient and reliable balancing of load,” which means blackout risk. That’s why the Proposal is careful not to mandate any more destabilizing solar or wind—and leaves the door wide open for reliable gas generation.

    Which leaves load reduction through energy efficiency as the main (though woefully inadequate) green component of both the Proposal and PG&E’s forecasts. But while energy efficiency is great, load reduction is plumb stupid as climate policy.

    Grid electricity is the easiest part of the energy supply to decarbonize, so we should be using more electricity—for transport, heating and other purposes—not less; PG&E’s generation should grow mightily to accommodate all the Tesla’s and Volts Californian’s could be driving on electricity from Diablo Canyon. The Proposal’s prescription for grid austerity marks a disastrous wrong turn for California energy policy.

    All of this fits a growing pattern. Despite green groups’ claims that nuclear power can be easily replaced by wind, solar and energy efficiency, recently closed plants from Vermont Yankee to California’s San Onofre have been replaced overwhelmingly with fossil-fueled power. With Diablo Canyon, at least they are admitting ahead of time that renewables can’t do the job.

    • Well said!

      I’d love to see the plan with specifics on how California would replace Diablo, I’d settle for something general. Based on everything PG&E has said so far, I fear you are correct, the future of California looks gassy.

      We really need a moonshot to pull it off and nothing I see shows me we are heading there.

      • Also from the PG&E website –

        “(The Diablo replacement program) includes a PG&E commitment to a 55 percent renewable energy target in 2031, an unprecedented voluntary commitment by a major U.S. energy company.”

        55% renewable by 2031 is a good target for now. It puts PG&E in striking distance of 100% carbon free before 2050.

        • Yup, read that. Sounds like a lot of smoke. I’m very interested in hearing how!

          From an engineering perspective, that’s just marketing fluff. I want to know how they plan to pull this off, with an emphasis on storage.

          Ultimately, I’m interested in how we won’t be using more gas.

          • I’m afraid you’ll have to wait and see. We’re building more wind and solar this year. We’ll build more next year. And more the year after.

            I don’t think anywhere makes specific plans nine years in advance.

            “Over the next five years, California is expected to install 22,645 MW of solar electric capacity, ranking the state first over that time span. This amount is more than 3 times the amount of solar installed over the last five years.”


            That would take CA to about 25% electricity from solar by 2021. (6.5% in 2015) Wind is now 5.3%, hydro 5.9%. Even with no growth in wind and hydro we’d be over 35% by 2021. Some increase with wind will happen. And then we’d have ten more years to get the rest of the way to 55%.

            I suspect in less than ten years we’ll have some floating wind turbines hooked to the grid and there’s an incredible amount of energy waiting there to be harvested.

          • “wait and see”? Yes, that does make me a bit afraid.

            Again, from an engineering perspective, I like to see a plan before large decisions are made. I am looking forward to seeing how EE, DR, renewables, and storage will offset the loss of Diablo in 9 years but we’re really going to need a moonshot and I don’t see us moving in that direction.

            I’m still scratching my head about why I’m hoping we can break even in 9 years instead of trying to get ahead of the curve (i.e. Keep Diablo going until all FF are off California’s diet).

            I’m excited about solar, wind, storage (this is HUGE), geothermal (full disclosure, my last job I designed the support systems [lube oil, seal/buffer gas, etc.] for a company that produced turboexpanders used in geothermal and waste heat recovery) but I’m also excited about nuclear (especially newer Gen 4+ designs).

            I love engineering, I love good designs, I love well thought out plans. I’m frightened by “wait and see”.

          • Also, your response “I don’t think anywhere makes specific plans nine years in advance” is pretty classic considering I was referencing a “moonshot” where we made very specific plans to land on the moon in almost the exact time frame.

            I’m really hoping we can in fact get a moonshot effort underway!

          • During that nine years the final rockets used were designed as were the space suits and pretty much everything else used in the effort. None of the details were settled nine years before the landing. In fact, much had to be invented.

            The only thing specific about going to the Moon was that we were going to go to the Moon. We’re further along with the plan to close Diablo nine years from now. We (apparently) have already decided what we build first.

          • You are describing how engineering design works, and all of that starts with a plan. Project Mercury, Project Gemini, and Project Apollo all had very well defined specific goals (with a design basis) which culminated in landing humans on the moon (as set out by president Kennedy’s speech to Congress).

            I think any assertion that there is some correlation between the development and design stages between USA’s human spaceflight program and PG&E’s proposal to replace Diablo is frivolous at best.

            Why argue about this, don’t you want to see a plan??? Seriously, I’m hoping to see at least some back of the envelope calcs to show how things can work. Even with Diablo we needed to keep working to reduce FF in the portfolio and since the “G” in PG&E stands for gas, I’m not convinced we won’t be reliant on gas for years to come.

          • No, I don’t want to see a plan other than what we’re going to do next and the end goal.

            I want us to do what seems best this year and what seems best next year. I don’t want to see us installing 2016 solutions in 2030.

            The end goal is all clean inputs. No gas.

          • That’s basically what I want to see, except adding how to get there.

            So, I want what we’re going to do next, the end goal, and how we are going to get there. Haven’t seen one of the three, that’s frightening.

          • There are two end goals currently being discussed. 1) Replace the output of Diablo Canyon with zero carbon electricity by 2025. Supply 55% of California electricity with renewables by 2031.

            If you want to see what we do next then look to see what projects are currently being built in CA and what PPAs have been signed to bring renewable electricity to CA.

          • Why not replace Diablo output by 2020? Why not supply 115% of CA need with renewables by 2017?

            These are just numbers with absolutely zero support. Again, as an engineer, I want to see a bit more substance than this.

            If you’re really on board with this fluff, I’ve got a business for you to invest in. I promise a 3,000% return on your money 🙂

          • If you are actually an engineer then you know that it takes time to design, permit and construct projects.

          • All of the above (design something, permit something, construct something) requires a plan. Which is lacking. This is all I’d like to see, a plan.

            Why are you defending this absence of a plan? There seems to be some cognitive dissonance going on here. If you didn’t agree with the direction, I’m fairly confident you would be demanding the same thing. Regardless, having a defined plan is in everyone’s best interest to make sure we are moving in the right direction.

            And no need for ad hominem attacks, I am an engineer, I believe a plan should come before action, this is of course the scientific way.

          • ​The end goal is set. Now PG&E will have to contract with companies to build enough renewables to reach the goal.

            I don’t understand your desire to have a list of what we are going to build in which year in which places. That will evolve on a year by year basis. Any plans made today are likely to have no validity five years from now with rapidly evolving technologies.​

          • I want to see a plan because I have a hard time believing we will make the numbers they suggest. Looking at a plan will help me create a model that will allow me (and others) to assess the feasibility.

            Having some clue about which direction we are heading can’t possibly be construed as a bad thing unless there is something trying to be hidden. I’m certainly not insinuating anything here, but it seriously frightens me to hear we are taking action without some form of a plan. And no, the numbers presented do not represent any form of due diligence towards a designed plan, sorry.

    • From the PG&E website –

      “The Joint Proposal would replace power produced by two nuclear reactors at the Diablo Canyon Power Plant (DCPP) with a cost-effective, greenhouse gas free portfolio of energy efficiency, renewables and energy storage.”

      This is a nine year project, the second reactor will go offline in 2025. The fact that not all the replacement power has yet been identified does not make your natural gas claim valid.

      Blow your smoke elsewhere….

  • It will be replaced by natural gas/fracking thanks to so-called environmentalists.

    • Guess you missed this –

      “Californian utility PG&E announced a Joint Proposal with labor and leading environmental organizations this week that intends to increase investment in energy efficiency, renewables, and energy storage, beyond current state mandates, while at the same time phasing out nuclear power in California by 2025. Specifically, PG&E announced that it intends to replace the two nuclear reactors at Diablo Canyon with “a cost-effective, greenhouse gas free portfolio of energy efficiency, renewables, and energy storage.””

      • no fossil fuels as backup, zero-land, no environmental impact, almost for free, no taxpayers’ money, people believe in anything

        • California is on route to becoming nuclear free. Sorry that news sours your milk.

          • but not fossil fuels free, nor bird-choppers free, nor landscape-destroyers free

          • Take that crap elsewhere.

        • “the renewable energy cult is as dishonest and divorced from reality as any religion”

          • Take your FUD elsewhere.

  • “If Diablo were relicensed, 2031 would see 23% + 50% = 73% zero-carbon, but with Diablo’s closure that will only be 55%.”

    Is that not an assumption on your part? Did you find someplace a target for 73% zero-carbon in 2031 that will be lowered to 55% with Diablo closing? Or are you assuming that the same amount of renewables would be built if Diablo continued to operate?

    • PG&E is already required by law (SB350) to supply 50% of retail sales with renewables by 2030. That plus Diablo would be about 73% of their total supply mix. Now they are committing to 55% renewables in 2031, but then that is without Diablo Canyon.

      However, I revise my previous comments. The Joint Proposal actually does commit to fully replacing the Diablo Canyon output above and beyond the 55%. However, that will occur between 2024 AND 2045. So it could take an additional 15 years beyond 2030 to actually replace Diablo Canyon’s energy with other zero-carbon resources. PG&E would have needed to do that anyway in order to meet California’s Carbon reduction goals.

      Regardless, PG&E will be producing more CO2 without Diablo Canyon running after 2025 than they would have otherwise, possibly not reaching the same levels of zero-carbon resources until 2045.

      • PG&E
        2013 22% renewables 22% nuclear

        So, 44% renewable + nuclear in 2013. PG&E is proposing to close Diablo (22%) in 2025 and to end up at 55% renewable by 2031. That sounds like replacing the 22% nuclear as well as converting another 11% from fossil fuel (natural gas) to renewables.

        With large hydro (11%) that would take PG&E to 66% low carbon by 2031. The 17% market purchases may also at least partially move to renewables.

        SB 350 is a statewide reg, not just PG&E.

        California got 8.6% of its electricity from nuclear in 2013. Some coming from Palo Verde in AZ. So closing Diablo is going to have a much smaller impact on overall CA electricity supply.

        I don’t think anyone argues that we get to zero CO2 faster by closing nuclear plants. But in some cases extending the license requires large expenditures and it might make more sense to spend that money on renewables.

        Then there are the wishes for those who live close to nuclear plants. I think they should be given a great deal of respect if they want the danger removed from their neighborhoods.

        • In 2015 PG&E’s mix was 30% Renewables + 23% Diablo = 53% (not including large hydro which don’t count towards the RPS)

          In 2031 PG&E would have needed to be 50% renewable anyway under SB350. That + Diablo ~ 73% zero-carbon. Now there will be no Diablo but they’ve agreed to be at 55% renewable in 2031. By 2045 they will get to the 73% level (fully replace Diablo Canyon’s lost generation).

          California’s regulations put PG&E into this spot, not pure economics. If PG&E operated Diablo Canyon until 2045, between that and the SB350 renewable requirements, PG&E would have greatly exceeded California’s carbon reduction goals between 2025 and 2045. However, PG&E would then have had to scramble in 2045 to procure new renewables or energy efficiency to keep their carbon emissions from rising when Diablo closed. Or, if they had procured more renewables before 2045, there would have been so much renewable over-generation during the spring months that they would have had to frequently curtail renewables or Diablo Canyon, or both.

          Given that, and perpetual legal challenges, PG&E threw in the towel. It may have been their best economic option, but only because there were many economic options they were not allowed to entertain under California laws/regulations.

  • From an email that Zach received from GE –

    “While we cannot share specific numbers from our customers’ sites unless they release it already or it’s public information, but we’re definitely seeing some above 50 percent capacity factors at many farms.

    Capacity factors obviously vary across wind farms due to a wide range of site locations and other factors. GE wind turbines in farms across the United States—in states such as Montana, California, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Kansas—have reached capacity factors of over fifty percent over the last two years (2013-14).

    These sites include a variety of GE wind turbine models and installation dates, and each site has registered capacity factors ranging from 50.4 to 52.4 percent, including availability at around 98 percent.”

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