Four “clues” that Diablo Canyon will be replaced by Wyoming coal

April 8, 2022, 12:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe
The Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. (Photo: Doc Searls)

Officials in California are planning to replace the electricity produced by the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, scheduled to shut down in 2025, “mostly with Wyoming coal-fired generation.” That claim is made in a post on the Capitol Weekly website written by Gene Nelson, a cofounder of Californians for Green Nuclear Power (CGNP). Nelson writes that although state officials are trying to hide this plan from the public, CGNP uncovered it by detecting four obscure clues in California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) filings.

First clue: The first clue that Nelson points to is a CPUC requirement that Diablo Canyon’s replacement power be reliable and dispatchable (under human control). He argues that these terms must refer specifically to out-of-state coal, because solar and wind power are not under human control, new dams are impractical because of the ongoing drought in California, and Californians oppose coal and natural gas plants in their state. He then notes, “There are many generators that could produce additional power to replace Diablo Canyon located in or near the nation’s biggest coal deposits in Wyoming.”

Second clue: The second clue is the requirement that a new transmission network be built to send the power about 1,000 miles from Wyoming to California, according to a filing. “Such a large network, first announced in 2007, is the Energy Gateway,” Nelson writes. “The network’s mastermind, Warren Buffett, stated in his 2021 letter to shareholders that the network would cost $18 billion by 2030.”

Third clue: The third clue is the inclusion in the CPUC filings of the term “unspecified imports,” which Nelson says is a California euphemism for coal. “This term mostly applies to out-of-state coal power,” he writes.

Fourth clue: The fourth clue is a reference in the CPUC filings to “criteria pollutants [being] counted from generation within California only, and not from unspecified imports.” Nelson writes, “This means toxic air pollution from out-of-state coal power is artificially zeroed.”

Keeping Diablo Canyon online: Nelson concludes by stating that in 2025, “Californians could have the worst of both worlds, with significantly higher toxic pollution released into the environment while paying more for this emission-laden power from Wyoming. Beginning to reverse California’s harmful energy policies means continuing operation of safe, reliable, and cost-effective zero-emission Diablo Canyon well beyond 2025.”

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