by John Gordon
Over the weekend, an organization with a history of being on the receiving end of the Soros money network, began running an ad demanding that the San Onofre power plant be permanently shuttered. From listening to the 30-second spot, one might come to the conclusion that San Onofre is run by a proverbial Mr. Burns, whose drive for profit will inevitably create a Fukushima-like disaster in Southern California.
Although it’s nice to think that the California economy can be powered by some combination of sunshine, cool breezes, algae, and pixie dust, the reality is that California’s two nuclear facilities (San Onofre and Diablo Canyon) are critical, reliable components to the stability and reliability of California’s already fragile electric grid. Combined, they supply 7% of the electricity California consumes (with out-of-state imports, roughly 16% of CA power comes from nuclear), and employ enough people to place California’s nuclear industry among the nation’s top ten.
Should the San Onofre plant be permanently closed, it would have widespread effects on the state including a $3.3 billion dollar hit to its already sluggish economy, skyrocketing energy prices, the loss of more than 9,000 jobs, greater vulnerability to the inherent unreliability of renewables and volatility of fossil-fuel prices, greater strain on the power grid, and possible rolling blackouts during peak-usage seasons.
And let’s not ignore the fact that any power loss to the San Diego region would have to be filled with additional power from the East. This is particularly critical because the power needed to offset a permanent closure of San Onofre would have to travel over the same high-voltage lines that – thanks to CPUC and CAISO’s penchant for preventing utilities from upgrading transmission capacity to meet customer demand (see Sunrise Powerlink) – caused the 2007 Witch Fire and shut down during the 2011 Southwest Power Outage.
A recent Washington Post piece noted that in some cases, low electrical costs in the U.S. were enough to keep manufacturing on our shores. With a combination of nuclear, renewables, fossil fuel, smart-grid technology, and strategic infrastructure upgrades, this is a possibility for California. The other option is for the California grid to continue being a safety hazard, and for electricity prices to be yet another factor driving business from the state. We know where the environmentalists stand.
John Gordon is a Public Affairs consultant with ProActive Communications, former staff member for the SDGOP, and USCD alum who specializes in infrastructure planning, reliability, safety, efficiency, and regulation for the energy industry and the nuclear sector.