A new study out of Stanford and MIT says California should keep the last remaining nuclear power plant open.
The study says the Diablo Canyon Power Plant should remain open to reduce the need for electricity powered by natural gas. The plant currently accounts for 8% to 9% of California’s in-state electricity generation and overall power mix. Pacific Gas & Electric, the operator of the Diablo Canyon Power Plant, says it still plans to close the facility starting in three years, and longtime critics of nuclear power remain firmly opposed to any talk of extending the life of the power plant that overlooks the Pacific in central California.
The report indicates that would mean placing an increasingly higher value on what’s called “low-carbon firm capacity” — energy that’s not intermittent but available whenever it’s needed while emitting no — or practically no — greenhouse gases.
“And that value becomes higher as you drive down to really deeply decarbonized scenarios,” said Jacopo Buongiorno, professor of nuclear science and engineering at MIT. “Nuclear plants — and Diablo Canyon is no exception — are one such clean and firm (source of) power capacity that we think should be preserved.” So far PG&E doesn’t feel inclined to ask regulators for approval to keep operating its nuclear power plant. But that could change if the “carbon price tag” becomes too high and if renewable energy can’t fill the void. The Stanford-MIT study suggests that the outcome is foregone and that there is no time to waste.