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San Onofre's Closure: What Was Missed

Unknown Lamer posted about a year ago | from the bad-assumptions-lead-to-bad-decisions dept.

Power 88

Lasrick writes "John Mecklin explores the context that was missed when the LA Times and the San Diego Union Tribune reported on the closing of the remaining two San Onofre nuclear reactors: 'U-T San Diego published a similar flurry of well-reported stories that covered the basics of the reasons for the closure, as well as the impact on consumers, workers, and the electricity supply. At both papers, coverage included infographics that effectively explained the problem that forced the plant to close—vibration that caused wear in tubes for the plant's steam generators. (The Times's tick-tock takeout on the history of the steam generator snafu, published in July, is especially comprehensive.) The specifics of the San Onofre closing were covered well and thoroughly. The context within which those basics reside, however, was far less well-examined, and the two major newspapers closest to the San Onofre plant both therefore missed a real opportunity to inform readers about the major energy choices California and the country will need to make in the coming decade.' Excellent work at the Columbia Journalism Review."

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Whence Nukiedog? (1)

Baldrson (78598) | about a year ago | (#44290307)

"Team Nukie" was a surf team from the 1980s that surfed the San Onofre Nuclear Plant beaches. They wore t-shirts sporting "Nukiedog" as their idol: The surfer, his board and his dog that surfed with him on his board that, bathed in the effluent from the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant, fused together into the meanest tube riding machine of Southern California.

Earlier today I was looking for an image of Nukiedog to do some ascii art of him as a response to Aspidog [youtube.com] in earlier today, but alas, found nothing. [irc]

What a synchronicity!

PS: As usual, Google's Usenet archive search fails big time.

The effect of Paywall and the locked articles (4, Interesting)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about a year ago | (#44290541)

Paywalls are a relatively new development for Internet, revealing itself to the public some 10 years ago.

It's effect was often ignore, until this case, that is.

The article the former Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner Peter Bradford wrote for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists earlier this year is locked behind a paywall, an article that could have contained vital information for the public to make up their correct judge regarding the use of Nuclear Energy to generate electricity for the United States of America.

The more articles being locked behind paywalls, the less informed the public are going to become.

The less informed the public are, the more power the elite 0.1% is going to garner, for the public will have no cause to oppose whatever they propose, as vital information locked up, so that a few could make some money, while the masses lose.

Re:The effect of Paywall and the locked articles (2)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#44293477)

plenty of paywalls before that.. iirc at least on playboy.com

News for libertarians (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44290317)

Stuff for misanthropic contrarians

News for Nerds, Stuff that Matters (2)

Teancum (67324) | about a year ago | (#44291941)

I can't imagine anything more "geeky" or "stuff that matters" than talking about the effects of shutting down nuclear power around the world. Building nuclear power plants is the ultimate in nerd culture, where nuclear engineering used to be the hot college major that everybody with half a brain would try to enroll into and where you would find all of the math nerds who wanted to make money.

As for the consequences of nuclear power, it really doesn't matter what your political leanings might be, this is pretty interesting stuff and something that really does have a long-term impact upon human society. You might be at odds about the approach that should be taken and if shutting down all of these nuclear power plants is a good or bad thing to do, but it really matters to very ordinary people who receive the electrical power from these plants. It certainly has a major impact upon your day to day activities and your monthly utility bills, not to mention just about every other aspect of your daily life in the 21st Century.

That is also sort of the point of the article, that a bunch of people who should know better are missing an important story that is not currently a part of the national or international forum of ideas. It really does matter.

Re:News for Nerds, Stuff that Matters (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about a year ago | (#44294429)

In other news, today the containment dome for the Flamanville EPR is being installed.

San Onofre - nukes done wrong, every plant (hell, every reactor) is different.

France - nukes done right - build a shitload of identical plants.

Ironic? (2)

mcrbids (148650) | about a year ago | (#44290387)

An article that decries all the valuable, important stuff that could have been brought up, but then doesn't bother to bring them up and/or discuss them in any detail?

This article was a waste of my time. I wish Slashdot had a thumbs up/down on articles.

Re:Ironic? (2)

Qzukk (229616) | about a year ago | (#44290421)

I wish Slashdot had a thumbs up/down on articles.

It's called the firehose. You can find it here [slashdot.org] if you have somehow managed to ignore all the other times slashdot begs you to go there and rate stories.

Re:Ironic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44290429)

Yep - you beat me to it.

Plus - editor - if you are going to reference articles in the La Times and San Diego Union Tribune - then provide links to them - and specifically don't link in that context to an old Slashdot article, and Wikipedia.

It shouldn't have been written like that, and an editor should have caught it - this is the problem with reality of free content - it's usually of a standard not worth paying for.

Re:Ironic? (1)

Teancum (67324) | about a year ago | (#44291955)

The links are in the article, including links to other stuff not mentioned in the summary.

This is a case of RTFA

Re:Ironic? (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year ago | (#44290443)

An article that decries all the valuable, important stuff that could have been brought up, but then doesn't bother to bring them up and/or discuss them in any detail?

This article was a waste of my time. I wish Slashdot had a thumbs up/down on articles.

THis is why there is room for comments. Care to add anything or just bemoan the lack of further info?

I was past San Onofre within the last month and can tell you their security is still active and keeping a fierce eye out for lollygaggers, loiterers, slow-poke drivers and the generally curious. They didn't bother me, but made their presence known.

Re:Ironic? (3, Insightful)

dj245 (732906) | about a year ago | (#44291893)

An article that decries all the valuable, important stuff that could have been brought up, but then doesn't bother to bring them up and/or discuss them in any detail?

This article was a waste of my time. I wish Slashdot had a thumbs up/down on articles.

Well I can't speak for the nuclear side of it, but the steam turbines had problems too. One was that they were getting buildup in the generator stator core cooling tubes.
See, a large steam turbine like this has a really massive electric generator. In most motors that people think of, the windings are made of copper wire. However, in large generators, these wires are replaced with copper strands roughly 2mm by 5mm or so, which are then bundled into groups of 100 or more in a rectangular shape. Usually, the resistance losses are such that air or hydrogen cooling is enough. However, when you start pushing around thousands of amps, even very small resistance losses turn into a lot of heat. At a certain point when you are making a generator larger and larger, all that copper becomes prohibitively expensive.

The first thing to do is replace the air with hydrogen. Hydrogen has less cooling capacity, but it is far less dense than air so the air friction of the rotor is much less, resulting in less heat. In truly large machines, however, that isn't enough. Above around 350MW, you make a portion of these copper strands hollow and pump water through them.

The combination of water, thousands of amps, and hydrogen sounds pretty dangerous, and you would be right in thinking that a lot of machines went BOOM before they nailed all the potential problems. One problem though remains the chemistry of the water in the copper strands. Demineralized, oxygen-free water is generally used, along with oxygen-free 99.999% pure copper. If a large amount of oxygen is in the water, there start to be buildups of gunk in the tiny strands, which can not be cleaned mechanically. You can search "oxygen in stator cooling water" on google and get a few articles. The only way to clean it is with an acid wash, and engineers get nervous about this because if you clean out all the gunk, invariably you have also caused material loss of your copper.

Which brings me in a very roundabout way back to San Onofre. They did everything right, but kept getting gunk in their copper strands. No oxygen in their water, and the water conductivity was more than high enough (sufficiently pure). And yes, they did check to make sure that water measurements were correct. Nevertheless, they were needing to acid-clean their generator stator copper strands every 2-4 years, which is alarming considering that the average machine only requires such acid cleaning between 0 and 2 times in a 40 year lifespan. Nobody has ever required this much acid cleaning, so the point at which the copper strands become too eroded by the acid is not clear. I'm sure some regulator was watching this very closely because of the huge disaster a water leak can have.

The only way out of this mess would have been be a new stator, or a rewind. A stator of that size weighs more than can not be transported in once piece, since it weighs at least 2 million pounds (no exaggeration). Building it or rebuilding it on site costs tens of millions of dollars just in labor and windings, not to mention all the lost generation.

This electrical generator problem certainly didn't sink San Onofre by itself, but it didn't help things either. I suspect there were a few other issues which would require a huge investment of money at a time when California is broke, the utility has a hard time getting a rate increase, and natural gas is cheaper than it has ever been in the US (there are basically 0 operating coal plants in California, although there are some just across state lines which sell exclusively to California). It probably would be cheaper in the long run to repair and refit San Onofre, but when money is tight, short term solutions take priority.

Re:Ironic? (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44292691)

Well I can't speak for the nuclear side of it, but the steam turbines had problems too. One was that they were getting buildup in the generator stator core cooling tubes.
See, a large steam turbine like this has a really massive electric generator. In most motors that people think of, the windings are made of copper wire.

Wait, wait, wait...

What was wrong with San Onofre WAS covered in the various news papers. We don't need to go over that again.

What this article laments is that the newspapers did not bother to explain the future, how the power needs would be met, what changes this would force on the region when the big boys shut down.

Rehashing WHY the plant was to be shut down is water under the bridge by now. (Actually, we've all passed a lot of water since then).
The author is more concerned that the public is unprepared and uneducated about where they go from here.

It was a thin excuse for an article, and as the GP pointed out, the author never even touched on these subjects himself, and leaves the whole issue unresolved. A bitchy second guessing article that offers nothing but complaints.

Re:Ironic? (1)

dbIII (701233) | about a year ago | (#44293221)

Either way the future is unlikely to be a nuclear power plant designed in the 1960s (with one reactor built before 1970 FFS) for much longer. While the lessons of TMI were retrofitted to such things there's not a lot of point keeping them going once running costs start to climb.

Re:Ironic? (1, Troll)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year ago | (#44293687)

It's just another lame "omg the lights will go out and prices with go up 100%" pro-nuclear scare story. No real insight, just "waaaaaah, my favourite power source is getting shut down because of all the sheeple idiots who don't understand it, waaaaaaaah".

Boobies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44290389)

I will miss that pair of breasts I ogle whenever I drive down to San Diego...

Re:Boobies (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year ago | (#44290461)

I will miss that pair of breasts I ogle whenever I drive down to San Diego...

Guess they architects didn't see it like that, or did and had a massive laugh when they were built.

Re:Boobies (1)

johnny cashed (590023) | about a year ago | (#44291061)

Guess they architects didn't see it like that, or did and had a massive laugh when they were built.

God, I hope no architects were involved. Hopefully it was designed by engineers. I can only imagine what a nuke plant would look like if Frank Gehry designed it.

Re:Boobies (3, Funny)

aaarrrgggh (9205) | about a year ago | (#44291857)

Pre or post melt-down?

It is called "Dolly Parton" (1)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about a year ago | (#44290831)

I will miss that pair of breasts I ogle whenever I drive down to San Diego...

Back in the days when I was in California, and that was many moons ago, that cute pair was known as "Dolly Parton"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dolly_Parton [wikipedia.org]

Re:It is called "Dolly Parton" (2)

demonlapin (527802) | about a year ago | (#44291825)

My half-brother is a sound guy. Lived in Nashville for years, and one day he had to put a lavalier mic [wikipedia.org] on Dolly. He was a little timid at first, until Dolly told him "Don't worry, son, they don't bite."

From the laundromat (5, Interesting)

frog_strat (852055) | about a year ago | (#44290425)

I live quite close to this reactor. I met a guy at the laundromat that said he was working on the reactor. He said they expected vibration along one axis but were seeing it on another, and that was the source of the corrosion. He felt ultimately it was a political move to shut it down. He also wouldn't be surprised if the decision were reversed, when people realize what the shutdown would do to electricity rates (double them).

In the local stories I have read that there are suspicions about contamination in the ground water under the reactor (it is on a beach FWIW). And there are 3 million pounds of spent fuel there, so hot, that no repository in the US is allowed to take it. I just imagine transporting all that waste by train through the many residential neighborhoods along the track.

A kayak competition is held very near the reactor where people row out, fall out of the kayak, get back in and row back. A friend took his new underwater camera case to the area, and it is full of small sharks, perhaps there is warm water attracting them.

Re:From the laundromat (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44290685)

I'm not sure exactly what you're implying about the warm water and sharks, but considering the rest of your post is about environmental effects you seem to be implying that the water is warm and therefore somehow irradiated?

The Pacific is cold in Southern California. I have lived here all my life and it rarely goes above 70 degrees on even the warmest times of the year, due mainly to an arctic current that hugs the coast as it comes down. San Onofre is no different, the water is basically the same temperature there. There are numerous shark species that migrate to and live off of the coast in Southern California, in a range of sizes from dogfish to leopard sharks to big thresher and mako sharks and occasionally migratory tiger and great whites. In fact, right now there is a roughly annual spawning of leopard sharks happening quite close to the coastline, you can go snorkeling with them off of La Jolla Shores beach and see about 30-50 of them swimming around. But the spawning happens all up and down the coast, so your friend who saw a bunch of sharks likely saw the annual and very common occurrence of shark spawning.

Re:From the laundromat (3, Informative)

johnny cashed (590023) | about a year ago | (#44290925)

I'm not sure exactly what you're implying about the warm water and sharks, but considering the rest of your post is about environmental effects you seem to be implying that the water is warm and therefore somehow irradiated?

No, I think he means the water is literally warmer around the plant. Was it not located on the beach to provide cooling water for the reactor? Thermal pollution is what that is called.

Re:From the laundromat (1)

frog_strat (852055) | about a year ago | (#44291003)

Thank you. I sometimes see what I think are dolphins mating. They are very close to each other, near the beach, and not moving very much.

Re:From the laundromat (1)

gmhowell (26755) | about a year ago | (#44294141)

Thank you. I sometimes see what I think are dolphins mating. They are very close to each other, near the beach, and not moving very much.

No matter what your mom says, that's a prime example of doing it wrong.

Re:From the laundromat (2)

Spoke (6112) | about a year ago | (#44290737)

He felt ultimately it was a political move to shut it down.

Utility companies never do anything except for reasons of profit. They simply felt that it would be more cost effective to mothball the plant rather than to try to fix it. The shareholders agreed - their stock price jumped upon the news hitting the wire.

He also wouldn't be surprised if the decision were reversed, when people realize what the shutdown would do to electricity rates (double them).

While SONGS provided an important chunk of power while running (about 1GW) it's only a small fraction of generation capacity in the state. It certainly won't double rates and if the utilties try to pass on any of the cost of mothballing the plant to the rate-payers, you can be sure that the customers will be in an uproar then.

Re:From the laundromat (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44290855)

They already are. SDG&E just announced that rates should go up quite a bit starting in September. People are bitching, but it'll be up to the CPUC ultimately.

Re:From the laundromat (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about a year ago | (#44291167)

And there are 3 million pounds of spent fuel there, so hot, that no repository in the US is allowed to take it. And there are 3 million pounds of spent fuel there, so hot, that no repository in the US is allowed to take it.

Which "repository" might that be? Last I heard, Congress had shitcanned the whole notion of building one....

Re:From the laundromat (2, Informative)

Teancum (67324) | about a year ago | (#44292069)

There are some places you can send nuclear material. One company in particular that I'm aware of is Energy Solutions [energysolutions.com] who operates a repository near Salt Lake City that takes in a fairly large amount of nuclear materials (like old x-ray machines, radiation suits of reactor workers, gloves from hospitals, and other similar stuff). There are other locations and companies too.

The problem as you've alluded to is "high level nuclear waste" from reactors, such as the proposed Yucca Mountain [wikipedia.org] repository. Yes, the idea of such a facility has been shit canned and is a continued political football. Why anybody would object to building such a facility next to the Nevada Test Range is beyond my comprehension, but so be it. There are other potential locations, as well as reprocessing plants that could use spent fuel and convert it into useful by-products of various kinds and even fuel nuclear power plants for another 500 years or more just off of existing stockpiles.

As far as moving the fuel through residential neighborhoods, the material can be moved in small enough quantities and in strong enough containers that it would be far safer than moving petroleum to a neighborhood gasoline station. Those routinely move through residential neighborhoods, so what is the objection again?

Re:From the laundromat (1)

dbIII (701233) | about a year ago | (#44293311)

Why anybody would object to building such a facility next to the Nevada Test Range is beyond my comprehension

Apparently that place is a bit wet for vitrified storage but I don't see why they can't find somewhere else uphill from the exact proposed site or somewhere else in the test range area.

There are other potential locations, as well as reprocessing plants that could use spent fuel and convert it into useful by-products of various kinds and even fuel nuclear power plants for another 500 years or more just off of existing stockpiles.

You can't get rid of it all - reprocessing actually generates more waste than you start off with - but you can at least get the really hot stuff out of the waste and make it easier to store what's left over and the now radioactive consumables you've used to get that far. People forget that Uranium has a high melting point and is very strong which makes it difficult to cut up fuel rods, which has made most reprocessing not much more than a proof of concept. It's all got to be done by robots due to how radioactive the fuel rods are.
One promising alternative is liquid reactors where expired fuel rods and expired weapon material can be thrown into the molten fuel instead of the incredibly expensive and messy operation of reprocessing. The US had a couple of thorium based reactors along those lines but lobbying from the uranium dependant US nuclear lobby let to that work being shut down. The US nuclear industry has eaten it's own children in that way so expect advances to come from elsewhere.

Re:From the laundromat (1)

Teancum (67324) | about a year ago | (#44302855)

You can't get rid of it all - reprocessing actually generates more waste than you start off with - but you can at least get the really hot stuff out of the waste and make it easier to store what's left over and the now radioactive consumables you've used to get that far. People forget that Uranium has a high melting point and is very strong which makes it difficult to cut up fuel rods, which has made most reprocessing not much more than a proof of concept. It's all got to be done by robots due to how radioactive the fuel rods are.
One promising alternative is liquid reactors where expired fuel rods and expired weapon material can be thrown into the molten fuel instead of the incredibly expensive and messy operation of reprocessing. The US had a couple of thorium based reactors along those lines but lobbying from the uranium dependant US nuclear lobby let to that work being shut down. The US nuclear industry has eaten it's own children in that way so expect advances to come from elsewhere.

The Idaho National Laboratory [inl.gov] developed a pretty effective method of reprocessing radioactive waste without much extra waste.... and the stuff that was left over was pretty much low level radiation stuff that could be handled in some of the existing repositories designed for that low-level waste. It does take operating breeder reactors, and the #1 problem with the technology is that it in theory could be used to create bomb-grade material out of the waste products in the same facility. The major concern is that if the technology was perfected in the manner that has been suggested and became commonly known to countries like Iran and North Korea, that they would have a much easier time building nukes.

I'm still undecided if that is an acceptable trade-off, and there may be some wise reasons for not going down that technology path. It should at least be a part of the conversation about nuclear reactors. If that really is the reason why the major governments of the world don't build those kind of reactors and waste reprocessing plants, I wish they would be a little honest too.

Re:From the laundromat (1)

dbIII (701233) | about a year ago | (#44304417)

Those countries have access to plenty of raw material anyway so there's not much point worrying about that aspect, the horse has bolted.
It appears to me the reason for the very small amount of reprocessing is that Uranium ore is cheap and it's far more expensive to get something useful out of used fuel than it is to get it from the ore.
Also over the past few decades there has been a great deal of resistance within the civilian nuclear industry to doing R&D. The example I know best is the waste storage method known as synroc which took close to 40 calendar years to be developed by a handful of people due to lack of funding which meant the combined team only managed to put in about ten years into the project over that span. A lot of the people running civilian nuclear do not care if it improves or not and do not have the ambition to progress nuclear power to the point where it can be financed privately instead of by a government willing to write off an economic loss. They just want the status quo even if that means leeching off the taxpayer.
IMHO that's why there's a fuss about a plant closing that was partly running before 1970 - sadly it's still close to cutting edge technology as far as operating nuclear power plants go.

Re:From the laundromat (2)

confused one (671304) | about a year ago | (#44291611)

It has nothing to do with how "hot" the used fuel is. There is no repository. None. Not a one. There are no fuel reprocessing plants either. ALL reactors are forced to store used fuel on-site. It is an engineering solution to a short sighted political problem.

Re:From the laundromat (1)

Jeremi (14640) | about a year ago | (#44292907)

There are no fuel reprocessing plants either. ALL reactors are forced to store used fuel on-site. It is an engineering solution to a short sighted political problem.

I propose an engineering solution to the engineering solution: Build a breeder reactor on-site that can use the stored fuel/waste to generate power. There, that was easy! :^)

Re:From the laundromat (1)

confused one (671304) | about a year ago | (#44292999)

There's no engineering in your proposal. It's just an off-the-cuff suggestion. Can't be done at that site, without substantial infrastructure added; and, the fuel would need to be sent out for reprocessing before it could be fed into the breeder. There are no reprocessing plants handling commercial fuel in the United States.

Re:From the laundromat (0)

radtea (464814) | about a year ago | (#44292051)

A friend took his new underwater camera case to the area, and it is full of small sharks, perhaps there is warm water attracting them.

The waters all over southern California are full of small sharks. I've seen them zooming along the breaking waves in La Jolla, far from any nuclear plant. So thanks for the baseless speculation! [Hint: if you want an issue to actually matter, provide a baseline comparison. Don't just say something ridiculous and meaningless like "You can light the water from their tap on fire!!!!" as if that was somehow interesting without any baseline or comparison to contrast it with.]

San Onofre has always had an excellent environmental record, as have most nuclear plants. Their economic record, now...

The problem with nuclear power comes in two forms:

1) relatively simple repairs are really expensive because they are heavily regulated

2) relatively small errors in operation result in (at best) the total destruction of the plant (i.e. Three Mile Island) and (at worst) the release of pretty significant amounts of radiation into the environment (i.e. Chernobyl, equal to perhaps a few months of American gun violence in terms of total deaths, unless you believe hysterics of nutjobs like the anti-scientific clowns at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which doesn't actually represent a significant fraction of the nuclear physics community.)

Re:From the laundromat (1)

Jeremi (14640) | about a year ago | (#44292917)

Don't just say something ridiculous and meaningless like "You can light the water from their tap on fire!!!!" as if that was somehow interesting without any baseline or comparison to contrast it with.]

Right, baseline: Most people's tap water is not flammable.

Re:From the laundromat (2)

rgmoore (133276) | about a year ago | (#44293343)

The problem with nuclear power comes in two forms:

The increased regulation isn't a separate thing; it's just a reaction to the potentially catastrophic results of a failure. When a small mistake can lead to a catastrophic failure that leaves the region around the plant uninhabitable for decades at the very least, people within the potentially affected area will demand regulations to make sure even small mistakes don't happen. This happens in any field where small mistakes can have terrible consequences on bystanders.

Re:From the laundromat (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44293623)

2) relatively small errors in operation result in (at best) the total destruction of the plant (i.e. Three Mile Island) and (at worst) the release of pretty significant amounts of radiation into the environment (i.e. Chernobyl, equal to perhaps a few months of American gun violence in terms of total deaths, unless you believe hysterics of nutjobs like the anti-scientific clowns at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which doesn't actually represent a significant fraction of the nuclear physics community.)

Click. Click. Clickety click. My FUD meter is now pegged.

Nuclear plants use the philosophy of redundancy and defense in depth. They aren't built like aircraft or racing cars. They are built like tanks. It takes an extraordinary sequence of events and failures for a nuclear accident to occur. Like tanks, they can be destroyed, but it isn't fucking easy. And the causes of failure are never trivial.

Re:From the laundromat (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44293865)

just imagine transporting all that waste by train through the many residential neighborhoods along the track.

It may fortify your courage somewhat to know that one of the tests imposed upon nuclear waste transport containers that would have been bound for Yucca Mountain in Nevada, had the repository not been defeated by politics, was a t-bone collision between a rocket powered locomotive and the waste container. The waste container survived intact. If this is the container that they intend to use for future transport, I wouldn't be too worried.

Natural Gas & Coal (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44290453)

As long as natural gas and coal can emit CO2 without any penalty to the real cost of that emission, nuclear plants will continue to close. It is funny that every time that nuclear power is brought up that people shake their fists demand that it is able to pay its entire costs, while they never mention the tragedy of commons that is going on with fossil fuel derived power. It is a pity that our ability to do risk analysis and balance alternatives is weighted on whether it can blow up in a scary fashion and release a radioactive plume versus causing irreversible destruction to the entire planet (but slow enough that only your grandchildren will care).

Re:Natural Gas & Coal (3, Interesting)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year ago | (#44290573)

As long as natural gas and coal can emit CO2 without any penalty to the real cost of that emission, nuclear plants will continue to close. It is funny that every time that nuclear power is brought up that people shake their fists demand that it is able to pay its entire costs, while they never mention the tragedy of commons that is going on with fossil fuel derived power. It is a pity that our ability to do risk analysis and balance alternatives is weighted on whether it can blow up in a scary fashion and release a radioactive plume versus causing irreversible destruction to the entire planet (but slow enough that only your grandchildren will care).

Further north, in California you can find a lot of wind turbines, including Shiloh II [wikipedia.org] . I was by the San Luis Reservoir (Pump and Store engergy/water resource) and noticed more turbines are being erected near there (a very windy place.) These 1.5 megawatt turbines are turning up in some amazing places, even solo installations in a rightly situated location, where a land owner can use some power and sell the rest at a tidy profit.

With all the talk of Santa Ana Winds I think there's an opportunity to build some of these wind farms in SoCal.

Re:Natural Gas & Coal (3, Informative)

Spoke (6112) | about a year ago | (#44290771)

With all the talk of Santa Ana Winds I think there's an opportunity to build some of these wind farms in SoCal.

There's quite a bit of wind and solar plants being built right now to accomate the renewable energy mandate in California.

The utilities in the state have until 2020 to increase renewable energy production to 33% of total energy production and they aren't half-way there yet.

Re:Natural Gas & Coal (1)

doppe1 (856394) | about a year ago | (#44298027)

Looking at the energy flow diagrams from LLNL https://flowcharts.llnl.gov/energy.html#2011 [llnl.gov] they only have the state-by-state breakdown for 2008 https://flowcharts.llnl.gov/content/energy/energy_archive/energy_flow_2008/2008StateEnergy.pdf [llnl.gov] . The total electricity generation from renewable (solar,hydro,wind,geothermal) comes to 6.6+237.8+53.1+270.8 = 568.3 BTU. As a fraction of the electricity generation of 1907.9 BTU this comes to 29.8%. Seems a little closer than half-way there already. But since we are only talking about increasing solar and wind, they would need an extra 67.7 BTU to meet this target, so if they doubled wind, and tripled solar then they would reach this target, so your comment of "aren't half-way there yet", makes sense if you look at it this way.

Re:Natural Gas & Coal (1)

Spoke (6112) | about a year ago | (#44298267)

Large hydro is not considered "renewable" due to the large impacts on the river - you'll see that it's broken out on the CAISO web site which shows current state of the grid and where energy is currently coming from:

California ISO - Today's Outlook [caiso.com]

They also have a Renewables Watch [caiso.com] page for historical data.

Re:Natural Gas & Coal (2)

rgmoore (133276) | about a year ago | (#44291203)

With all the talk of Santa Ana Winds I think there's an opportunity to build some of these wind farms in SoCal.

The Santa Anas are the wrong kind of wind for power generation because they blow only part of the time but very strongly when they are blowing. That means you need to build the turbines to be very strong to resist the peak winds, but you won't get to benefit from that strength most of the time. The ideal winds for power generation are more or less constant speed.

That said, there is a fair amount of wind power generation in Southern California. There are large wind farms built to take advantage of the wind funnel effects of the San Gorgonio [wikipedia.org] and Tehachapi [wikipedia.org] passes.

Re:Natural Gas & Coal (1)

dbIII (701233) | about a year ago | (#44293351)

It doesn't matter if a few windmills are out of action since they are so tiny anyway and they are typically not all in the same spot. That's also how they can be effective despite having relatively short maintainance schedules.
To get some perspective a single engine from a 1950s jet fighter generates 20MW on takeoff which is about the same as ten large windmills. There's still a few of those jet engines around as backup generators or to burn coal seam gas on site.

i still suspect Enron. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44290531)

Remember those major blackouts in California and the issues with paying for it? They didn't happen because of too much regulation, but deregulation that let power companies manipulate the local supply in order to profit from sales outside.

Re:i still suspect Enron. (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year ago | (#44290653)

There are dozens of power pools operating around the world. They are all regulated markets. Most have market caps and floors. California's pool didn't. That is a failure of regulation. You will point out that the companies manipulated the system, I will point out that you are only seeing half the problem.

Re:i still suspect Enron. (2)

Rockoon (1252108) | about a year ago | (#44291363)

Not to mention that California did have retail caps on the price of energy, and the way they implemented that ("soft caps") was part of the problem of their energy crisis. Once they became an importer of energy (while allowing exports!), all those nonsensical regulations became a weapon to be used against them.

The regulation apologists want you to think that the crisis was a manufactured financial one, rather than a over-regulated supply one. In reality it was both [nae.edu] , with one enabling the other.

Re:i still suspect Enron. (0)

dbIII (701233) | about a year ago | (#44293379)

Enron et al were the ones that lobbied for those excessive regulations which were designed for their own benefit. That leads it back to a manufactured financial problem and an utter joke of a system that is still being laughed at internationally. One of the richest states in the largest economy in the world with regular brownouts? Ridiculous!

Re:i still suspect Enron. (2)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year ago | (#44301837)

Of course Enron didn't have all that much to say about the CA power pool. Being outsiders and all they were more or less ignored.

Also note: The lack of new plants, which was the fundamental problem, was under ratebase.

Re:i still suspect Enron. (2)

Teancum (67324) | about a year ago | (#44292123)

It was screwy half-hearted deregulation where in many ways the worst parts were deregulated but the parts that really would spur on competition were kept heavily in regulations. It still is near impossible for a neighborhood to build a bunch of solar cell panels and small wind turbines as a neighborhood power co-op and sell the excess power on the grid (possible, but very difficult and full of regulations). That is the kind of thing that needs to happen.

It really is so weird that to go through the California regulations on power needs a full time team of lawyers (not just a single lawyer) even for a small neighborhood group, much less a private individual. The big power companies have those teams, which is why those kind of regulations stay in place. The de-regulation was simply that once the lawyers figured out how to weasel their way through the regulations and required forms, that the state couldn't stop them from any subsequent actions.

Re:i still suspect Enron. (1)

dbIII (701233) | about a year ago | (#44293391)

It's not weird that the small players are locked out, that's working according to design.
If the USA would cut down on bribery of elected officials under the name of "lobbying" you would see less of this.

Re:i still suspect Enron. (2)

Teancum (67324) | about a year ago | (#44302649)

Of course it is by design. That is where those who want to see more government regulations "to help protect the little guy" end up being mere pawns in the grand games of these big companies and end up screwing "the little guy" far more than if they simply kept their trap shut.

The best way to cut down on bribery is to simply make the situation so elected officials can't do anything... because the government can't do anything. Nobody cares to lobby a government official who is on a committee with no responsibilities.... or at least only in charge of a budget so small that the lobbying amounts to be nothing more than advertisements in the Sunday newspaper. The problem is when you have officials in charge of trillion dollar budgets, spending a couple hundred million is just pocket change on any project you might be working on.

Re:i still suspect Enron. (1)

dbIII (701233) | about a year ago | (#44302883)

Are you really suggesting that the best way to prevent these problems is to make it so the government cannot do anything and let Enron or similar crooks loose without restriction of any kind? If so take a look at US history just over a hundred years ago to see what a horror show the Robber Barons were.

Re:i still suspect Enron. (1)

Teancum (67324) | about a year ago | (#44309941)

The Robber Barons were only a problem because the government was still stepping in when it wasn't needed, and not stepping in when it was. Most of J. P. Getty's monopoly was enforced simply through thug tactics really no different than a street gang or even the cartels of Mexico.... and often even involved the "Mafia" where appropriate, including burning down structures of competitors, killing people, and making death threats when they didn't have to kill. That has never in American history every been legal, nor has it needed regulation. Of course the problem was that those who ordered that to happen weren't held liable or responsible for those actions. They can and should have had their wealth stripped from them and imprisoned for engaging in those actions.

Otherwise, most of U.S. history shows that small businesses in competition with each other tends to do a better job of making most things that we need, and that when we compete against each other in a genuine free market... free from tyranny and oppression from thugs and the power hungry who resort to physical violence to achieve their ends... will tend to resolve other problems without piles of government regulation. Yes, that may be a utopian fantasy for such a free market to exist, but it at least can be something to try for.

I completely disagree with the standard characterization of the "Robber Baron Era", and certainly for most typical Americans the progress out of poverty was substantially better then than it is today. Scientific progress, economic progress, and even cultural progress was all better when the government did its best to get out of the way other than to keep us from killing each other and maintain peace in a civil society. I'm not an anarchist, as I do think there is a role for a government to be around, but that role ought to be limited. I also understand the tragedy of the commons as well, but that can be addressed in several ways.

Enron was allowed to do the things it did precisely because the government kept potential competitors from being able to compete against them.

Re:i still suspect Enron. (1)

dbIII (701233) | about a year ago | (#44313831)

You just don't seem to be able to get it. Due to a "small government" Enron was able to buy people in the government off and get those people to stifle competition for them. Government itself is not the problem. A government that cannot properly be held to account by the people it represents is the problem.

Economics (5, Insightful)

fermion (181285) | about a year ago | (#44290635)

A rational person would have stopped when they said that economics closed nuclear power. This is the reality. In the US there has been 40 years to prove that nuclear energy is a competitive product. You can blame the government, but it is pretty much bad management of a technology that could work. You can say if the government would only subsidize the product, it would work, but why is government subsidizing a mature technology? In the US it does not seem to be a viable solution.

Yes coal is a major source of electricity, about 40%, and it is going to get harder with new regulation. But again, like nuclear, the reason we building more coal plants it dogma. People believe it is the best solution. It is certainly a profitable solution. There are tens of thousands of people who are willing to dig coal for a middle class income in working conditions that keep the overall costs low. So we have the job argument, the argument that we can't live without electricity, and the argument that technology will make it cleaner. But that technology is funded by the taxpayer, and maybe we want to do something new that will help us long term, not just keep established corporations in power.

In any case, the short term future is natural gas, and the long term future is wind, solar, and conservation. This is where the technology is. Building more efficient electronics. Building better turbines and solar cells. Building superconducting batteries, storing energy in elevated mass, flywheels, etc so that we are not generating for peak capacity 24 hours a day, and then throwing away a quarter of it. It is not something that your C level executive understands, it is not something your coal miner wants to go to school to learn, it is not something that is going to transfer millions of dollars of tax payers money directly into the pockets of investors, but it is something that will build the intellectual and long term economic wealth of the country.

And I mentions conservation. These plants supplied one millions homes in a state of 38 million. That is 2% reduction in capacity. The big thing we need to realize is that energy is neither free nor infinate. We can go and buy a 60" TV that us going to use almost 400KWh in a year, or one that uses under 200. We can browse on our 120 watt computer, or on our 5W tablet. We can turn on the lights in the middle of the day, or not. How much would we need to do to save 2% of the electricity? Who much would be need to do to save 10%?

Re:Economics (1)

CHIT2ME (2667601) | about a year ago | (#44290823)

This plant was operating safely and efficiently in the mid 70s when I lived there. At the time the anti-nuke freaks wanted it shut down. Seems like they finally got their way!

Re:Economics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44299117)

Looks like they were right, though they had no way of knowing the plant would fall apart 40 years later at the time. They probably did realize that nuclear power is a big problem because even desolate western states won't take the waste though.

Logically nuclear power makes sense, but fearful people make it non-viable in the long-term. These folks don't seem to mind all the harm coal does.

Re:Economics (3, Interesting)

dbIII (701233) | about a year ago | (#44290951)

How much would we need to do to save 2% of the electricity? Who much would be need to do to save 10%?

In places where it isn't done already (and with the utter joke that is the Californian electricity system they will not have done it), you can save that much by shifting loads that are not time dependant around the clock. Off peak domestic hot water is one (hot water system runs at night since those things retain heat for hours), industrial heating is another (charge less for furnaces running at night), and there's plenty of others to get that daytime load down and stop wasting so much from the base load stations that are already burning stuff at night. It's a policy thing since the control systems have been in use and improving since the 1980s and any hot water systems etc designed for export are going to have the hardware at the user end already.

Re:Economics (1, Insightful)

cheesybagel (670288) | about a year ago | (#44291015)

Actually the reality is that nuclear power is economic over the entire lifetime of a plant, nearly as cheap as coal, and works just fine without particulate emissions.

Solar power will eventually be interesting enough for grid generation but for now it remains too expensive. Not to mention that these technologies have issues regarding availability. As for storage there have been a lot of people working on it but it neither comes cheap, nor does it come without losses.

Conservation only works when you actually have generated energy to conserve.

Re:Economics (1)

dbIII (701233) | about a year ago | (#44293409)

That's the hope but nothing has got there yet which is why banks are not investing in new nuclear construction anywhere on the planet - nothing has provided enough of a return for them to be interest. Give it a few years and some relatively recent plants may get to the point you are describing but unexpected problems in the older plants meant unexpected expenses and poor economic figures over their entire life.

Re:Economics (2)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year ago | (#44293701)

Actually the reality is that nuclear power is economic over the entire lifetime of a plant, nearly as cheap as coal, and works just fine without particulate emissions.

Only if you ignore all the stuff that the government pays for, like insurance.

Re:Economics (0)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about a year ago | (#44295707)

Actually the reality is that nuclear power is economic over the entire lifetime of a plant, nearly as cheap as coal, and works just fine without particulate emissions.

Only if you ignore all the stuff that the government pays for, like insurance.

And the coal plant is only economic if you ignore the stuff that isn't payed for like dealing with the results of raising atmospheric CO2 to 400ppm.

Re:Economics (2)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year ago | (#44298523)

Yes, yes it is. What was your point? I didn't mention coal, you did.

Re:Economics (2)

frog_strat (852055) | about a year ago | (#44291077)

I am not the expert but what I heard on the news implied that power rates were not averaged out to a state amount, and implied Orange County rates could go up independent of the rest of continental California.

Re:Economics (1)

dj245 (732906) | about a year ago | (#44292031)

Yes coal is a major source of electricity, about 40%, and it is going to get harder with new regulation. But again, like nuclear, the reason we building more coal plants it dogma. People believe it is the best solution. It is certainly a profitable solution. There are tens of thousands of people who are willing to dig coal for a middle class income in working conditions that keep the overall costs low.

Natural gas is actually giving coal a serious run for the money right now. Part is efficiency and part is fuel cost. About the best we can achieve with a coal plant is around 40% efficiency, which is not that bad considering the thermodynamics and represents over 100 years of improvements in the process. Gas-powered combined cycle plants play with the thermodynamics in ways that the coal plant fundamentally can not reach, so they can get 60% efficiency.

Add to that the fact that natural gas, especially in the US, is at a historical all-time low, and you arrive at the fact that nobody has ordered a coal plant in the last 4-5 years. Some came online fairly recently, but they were all ordered back in the early-mid 2000's when gas was expensive. Gas is cheap around the world right now, but in the US, it is roughly 1/4 the price compared to Europe and 1/3 the price compared to Russia.

So, in fact, we are not building new coal plants, and the reason is mostly economical (with many permitting considerations also). According to the accountants, it is not "the best" or the most profitable solution. This is all great in the short term, natural gas is 99% methane and burns clean, the US can become very slightly less reliant on foreign sources of energy*, etc. But I have to ask, what happens when gas is not cheap? Sooner or later the price of gas in the US is going to be closer to the price in the rest of the world, and that day is going to bring down a lot of pain on the US.

*oil-fired power plants make up only a tiny percentage of the US power mix. It is simply too expensive to burn for electricity, and has been for a long time. Since the number of natural gas cars in the US is really tiny, cheap natural gas doesn't really decrease our oil usage in any meaningful way. This doesn't stop politicians from trumpeting this misconception however.

Re:Economics (1)

tigeba (208671) | about a year ago | (#44292827)

>And I mentions conservation. These plants supplied one millions homes in a state of 38 million. That is 2% reduction in capacity. The big thing we need to realize is >that energy is neither free nor infinate. We can go and buy a 60" TV that us going to use almost 400KWh in a year, or one that uses under 200. We can browse on >our 120 watt computer, or on our 5W tablet. We can turn on the lights in the middle of the day, or not. How much would we need to do to save 2% of the electricity? >Who much would be need to do to save 10%?

I believe you have accidentally conflated two different statistics here, the plant generates enough power for about 1 million average California homes, and the entire population of California is roughly 38 million poeple, not homes. Looking here: http://www.eia.gov/nuclear/state/California/ it appears that California's two nuclear plants produce roughly 16% of the base production, split basically evenly between the plants. Not 100% sure about this because the summer capacity column is somewhat confusing. I'm inferring that the nukes run pretty much full steam and they make up with largely natural gas.

 

Re:Economics (2)

fermion (181285) | about a year ago | (#44295859)

Yes, I did realize the error after I posted. I used population instead of housing units. The article clearly stated that the plants supplied power to 1.4 million homes, and there are about 14 million housing units in California. So really these plants provide power to 10% of the houses, significant but still not critical, meaning that it enough to mean that there will no longer be excess capacity and rates may go up, but not enough to mean that there will necessarily be rolling blackouts, especially if there is a realization that conservation is a major part of the solution.

Shutting Down San 'O, (Best Pair I Ever Saw) (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | about a year ago | (#44290945)

Funny thing about the company that made the pipes anti vibration assembly, it was for larger pipes. (I guess using metric was the problem.) The big story in Orange County is, "who is going to pay for this party?" As an Edison customer in the O.C., I hope it's the company that made the pipe assembly and NOT Edison.

And something else, Anahiem use to own 3% of San'O; I guess it's a warning when Mickey Mouse says, "Bye Gang!".

Who pays? The usual suspects... (3, Informative)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | about a year ago | (#44291153)

Anyone with money pays.

I just received a chatty letter from SDG&E, mostly blather about how they are saving money at the SDG&E office by cutting down on energy and water use, reducing paper use, updating their vehicle fleet, etc... BLAH BLAH BLAH...

The gist of the letter is "about a quarter of our customers will see a noticeable increase in their bills in September..." (due to the San Onofre shutdown).

How much? "If your bill is typically around $100... about $15" -- "If your bill is usually about $250... about $75". (and I am sure it goes higher - see the non-linear trend? 2.5x bill - 5x extra cost... bearing in mind the bill itself is already tiered.

Meh, what's another $1000 a year to live in the Golden State. Guess I need to fire some more of my household staff to make up the difference (as if - but seriously, middle income folks who haven't had a raise in a few years do tend to cut back on stuff like gardeners and house cleaners to make up for new taxes and other stuff like this... cancel the gym membership, do my own gardening. Net same cost to me, two businesses lose out on my patronage and the economy shrinks a bit more.)

Gardeners? Middle Income? What? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44292879)

middle income folks who haven't had a raise in a few years do tend to cut back on stuff like gardeners and house cleaners to make up for new taxes and other stuff like this...

Hmm.. middle income must mean something completely different in the Golden State.

Here in the midwest, it surely doesn't correspond to gardeners and house maids.

Re:Gardeners? Middle Income? What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44295825)

gardeners and house maids in so cal typically mean something like this:

gardener = one or two hispanic guys come every other week and spend about 60 minutes doing a mow and blow on a tiny lot for about $50 bucks.

house cleaner = one or two hispanic gals come every other week and spend 2-4 hours moving the dust around, vacuum and misplace items for about $60 bucks.

If you are thinking a full-time gardener or a uniformed maid, get over it. these are common services provided by low paid people as a convenience, mostly to folks who are stuck in grid-lock traffic for an hour each morning and afternoon. they are also the first to go when household budget gets hit with new expenses and no offsetting income increase.

Re:Gardeners? Middle Income? What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44297783)

FYI, $ means "bucks", so it's not necessary to say it twice. Also, using "bucks" in order to make it seem trivial is a little dishonest. Save the deceptive framing of arguments for a group more swayed by emotion.

Re:Who pays? The usual suspects... (2)

Jeremi (14640) | about a year ago | (#44292971)

Meh, what's another $1000 a year to live in the Golden State.

Given than it's sunny SoCal, you might look into getting solar panels for your roof, if you have one handy. Depending on financing, the price may be lower than what you're paying now (or what you will be paying in September), and even if it's not, at least the costs will be 100% predictable -- the incidence of unexpected stator corrosion in solar arrays is vanishingly small. ;)

Re:Who pays? The usual suspects... (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#44293515)

I don't know where you live but middle class doesn't have gardeners unless you have a pretty extremely large and poor lower class(at which point the guys with money to hire help are upper class anyways - and the middle class is the guys with enough money to buy food, clothes and some nice things - but not people)..

WTF (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | about a year ago | (#44294797)

but seriously, middle income folks who haven't had a raise in a few years do tend to cut back on stuff like gardeners and house cleaners to make up for new taxes and other stuff like this...

That definition does not mean what you think it means; you left off a rather large UPPER descriptor.
-- a bitter, degreed member of the barely middle class

I all for shutting it down... (1)

tlambert (566799) | about a year ago | (#44292777)

I all for shutting it down...
 
...you know, as a pissy attempt to get the steam turbine manufacturer to come down on price, it was a pretty stupid negotiating tactic, but I have to agree it's their right to shut it down...
 
...you know: as long as the rolling blackouts hit San Diego first.

Plus, as Chevron has demonstrated, even if you have plenty of fuel, controlling the rate at which you turn that fuel usable is a great way of getting more money by jacking up prices, while simultaneously reducing your costs.

Guess we'll never see Thorium reactors in the US (1)

asm2750 (1124425) | about a year ago | (#44293437)

It is a shame we haven't pursued and embraced reactor tech like Thorium fuel cycles and heavy water designs like CANDU that can run on almost any fuel cycle with little issue including natural uranium.

Smartest Guys In The Room (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | about a year ago | (#44294847)

Whether it was greed, hubris, or both, the PG&E folks decided they knew better than the original designers and turned the redesign up to 11. They even crowed about their accomplishment in industry publications.
What could possibly go wrong?

Apples and Oranges!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44294949)

California is a special case, when it comes to electricity. To compare that state to any other is to compare the diligent ant to the lazy grasshopper (remember the story?) California has failed to keep up with demand for electricity by allowing new power plants - of WHATEVER technology - to be built for the last 40 years. The natural result is that California has been trying to force neighboring states - the "diligent ants" - who have the necessary electrical capacity to support themselves - to sell electricity to California, to make up for the lack of capacity, caused by extreme environmental idiocy.
California needs to stop wasting money on forcing manufacturers to re-label products ("This product contains lead, known to the state of California to cause...") to warn of hazards that have already been identified by the federal government. It is one of the many reasons the state is going broke.
Oh, and, in the rest of the country, "middle income" does not enable one to have household help.

Re:Apples and Oranges!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44301585)

There must be a LOT of folks here from the "left coast"...judging from the way they are ignoring you...

Not a simple thing (1)

skyraker (1977528) | about a year ago | (#44295255)

This is the worst possible moment in time to move away from nuclear power. Renewables may never reach the point that their energy production matches any decent size gas/coal/oil/nuclear plant. Coal has to go. So many people will talk about natural gas, because now we have so much of it available that prices are low. But the industry doesn't want the general public to know that they have been petitioning the government to export our natural gas. That's right, good old Capitalism wants to win out over energy security. Energy companies need reasons to continue to charge hundreds of dollars a month for energy they now get for a much cheaper price. Energy producers see an opportunity to increase profits, which wouldn't be bad if the end result is natural gas prices rising. In several years, the cost of nuclear power per kilowatt will once again be comparable to, if not cheaper than natural gas. By then our current plants will be even older, the cost to build a new plant will be even greater, and we'll once again wonder why we didn't grab the bull by the horns and prepare for the future in advance.

Water intake issue (1)

Joe Branya (777172) | about a year ago | (#44297713)

The plant would stay open under normal conditions- it produces a lot of cheap, baseload electricity- but the new fish intake rules from the Obama administration will add almost one billion dollars in costs, and that is what is really forcing the closure.

The San Onofre plant is cooled by ocean water via a 3,000 ft long pipe going into the deep ocean. Some fish get sucked into the pipe. New regulations are designed to reduce fish deaths. The easy solution to the fish problem is to put a big screened enclosure at the end of the pipe so the speed of the water at the screen is low enough to allow fish to simply swim away. The new rules will not allow the simple fix. Instead they require cooling towers and a closed loop cooling system. There is no place on-site to put the towers so a huge earth moving operation will be called for and the towers are expensive to build, thus a billion dollar bill for very little benefit.

This sort of "drive them out of business by regulatory changes" is going on everywhere in the power business. The goals may be laudable but the process is intended to replace public discussion of costs and benefits with a more closed and opaque system based on regulations.

Power Engineering magazine has covered the issue extensively (but behind a password for most web surfers). However if you Google "San Onofre water intake" you can get a pretty good picture of what is going on. Why is the cooling story and the associated cost issue not being covered in the newspaper reports? Anybody's guess.

Re:Water intake issue (1)

Spoke (6112) | about a year ago | (#44298375)

Great comment. Also, the water intake issue affects more than just San Onofre - it affects all of the state's power plants sucking water from the ocean.

I hate linking to UT San Diego, but it's the only good article I could fine on the subject. Note the date of the article (May 4, 2010):

San Onofre gets another three years without cooling towers - New regulations approved for all state's coastal power plants [utsandiego.com]

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