Environment

What would life be like without nuclear power?

The state business that manages California’s electrical grid plans to study what would happen if the state’s two nuclear power plants shut down.

Two studies are planned as part of the California Independent System Operator’s efforts to assess grid reliability for both the short term and for the next 10 years, said Steven Greenlee, ISO spokesman.

“The short-term study for summer 2013 is expected to be finished this summer,” Greenlee said. “The long-term study (through 2021) is expected to be completed by year’s end and its results considered in our 2012-13 transmission plan that must be ready by March 2013.”

Both studies are in the planning stages and have not produced any analyses, Greenlee added.

About 16 percent of electricity generated in the state comes from nuclear power. This includes Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, which contributes 10 percent, and San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in Southern California.

Nuclear power plants operate continuously for months and are considered a key element in the state’s baseload power supply; however, San Onofre shut down indefinitely early this year because of leaks in its steam generators.

Nuclear power in California faces uncertainties beyond the problems at San Onofre.

PG&E’s request to renew the two operating licenses at Diablo Canyon has been placed on hold until the utility can complete extensive studies of the earthquake danger the plant faces.

Both nuclear plants also face possible costly modifications to their cooling systems to reduce damage to the ocean environment. Both plants’ cooling systems use massive amounts of seawater and kill fish and crab larvae in the process.

The state must also meet a goal of having a third of its power come from renewable energy sources by 2020. California defines renewable energy to be wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and small hydroelectric.

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