ANS backs effort to save Diablo Canyon

November 16, 2020, 9:33AMNuclear News

Diablo Canyon nuclear plant. Photo: PG&E

The American Nuclear Society has submitted a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in support of a complaint recently filed by a nuclear advocacy group regarding the 2016 decision to prematurely retire the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant.

The letter was signed by ANS Executive Director and CEO Craig Piercy and President Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar.

The complaint: Filed on October 26 by Californians for Green Nuclear Power, the complaint argues that California regulators violated federal reliability standards for the bulk power system by approving Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s plan to close Diablo Canyon “without first properly analyzing the adverse bulk electric system and adverse bulk natural gas system consequences in light of known California-specific hazards.”

In addition, the complaint claims that the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) and the Western Electricity Coordinating Council “failed to conduct proper oversight or enforce NERC’s reliability standards that will be violated by removing [Diablo Canyon] from the California electric grid.”

The ANS letter: In its November 12 letter to FERC, ANS urges the commission to reconsider the state regulators’ approval of PG&E’s closure plan, stating, “Closing California’s only remaining operating nuclear power facility will threaten more rolling blackouts for the Golden State, as Diablo Canyon reliably supplies approximately 10 percent of in-state power. Along with further weakening California’s fragile power grid, the premature closure of Diablo Canyon will deprive California of its largest carbon-free energy resource and worsen the state’s growing dependency on natural gas imports.”

Without Diablo Canyon’s power generation, the letter states, California “will be forced to import more out-of-state electricity and more natural gas via pipelines across earthquake-prone tectonic boundaries like the San Andreas Fault.”

Also, while recognizing the growing contributions of renewables to California’s power grid, ANS notes that “wind and solar farms are too weak and inconsistent to ensure grid reliability, as their intermittent generation ebbs and flows with weather conditions. Instead, the grid requires dispatchable, firm generation from conventional resources to keep the lights on.”

Background: Located near Avila Beach, Calif., Diablo Canyon houses two four-loop Westinghouse pressurized water reactors. Unit 1, a 1,138-MWe PWR, began commercial operation in May 1985, while the 1,151-MWe Unit 2 started providing power in March of the following year.

In June 2016, PG&E announced that it had reached an agreement with organized labor and environmental organizations to increase its investment in energy efficiency and storage, as well as renewables, and to close Diablo Canyon upon the expiration of the reactors’ operating licenses—November 2024 for Unit 1 and August 2025 for Unit 2. PG&E’s application to close the plant was approved by the California Public Utilities Commission in January 2018, and in March of that year, the utility notified the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that it was withdrawing its 2009 application for license extension.

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