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  1. Back before deregulation I attended a conference hosted by Southern California Edison. In a conservation at dinner, while talking about the CA-EPA and it control of utilities one of the engineers (SCE? not sure any more, could have been PG&E) told me about the difficult time they had getting CA-EPA approval to add a new NG fired power plant. Seems CA-EPA was doing everything they could to minimize and limit “pollution” in CA. The agreement they worked out was that SCE agreed to go to each of their NG customers that used NG for heating, annually, and verify and/or tune-up as necessary the furnace/wall-mounted NG heater to manufactures specifications so that the “pollution” reduction would provide sufficient margin to operate the added source of “pollution.”
    I remembered this story when I read that PG&E was shutting down a Pollution free (almost) Nuclear power plant and, in essence, replacing it with 50% Renewables and 50% natural gas burners.
    Where is the CA-EPA concern now?
    Is the CA-EPA still concerned?
    Why is the CA-EPA looking the other way?
    Is this added pollution being taken into consideration?
    Is a lawsuit in order forcing the CA-EPA to maintain the environment?
    Is this a tactic that those for keeping Nuclear Power can sue or litigate to force the use of only power that is as clean as or cleaner – in total – as Nuclear power?
    Could the CA-EPA force the state to take over ownership of DC with present employees as the NRC licensed “Operating Staff?”

    1. Informative graphic, Keith. While comparing Hoover Dam to Vermont Yankee works out fairly well — Hoover generates about 3.5 TWh/y while VY only made about 5 — comparing Hoover to DCPP is not so good. Factors of five add up too quickly, most eyes glaze over beyond two or three. So here’s some anual Colorado River hydro generation, taking it from the top:

      Gunnison River:
      Blue Mesa 203.4 GWh
      Morrow Point 269.2 GWh
      Crystal 138.0 GWh

      Green River:
      Flaming Gorge 344.4 GWh

      Upper Colorado total: 955 GWh/y

      Lower Colorado:
      Glen Canyon 3.6 TWh
      Hoover Dam 3.5 TWh
      Davis Dam 1.15 TWh
      Parker Dam 0.46 TWh

      Lower Colorado total 8.7 TWh/y. The Glen Canyon and Hoover figures are downrated for current drought, which has been quite a problem recently. But it will get better Real Soon! The Davis and Parker are historical averages.

      So the entire Colorado River generates about 9.66 TWh/year. Diablo Canyon, on the other hand, ranges from a meager 17.0 up to only 19.6 TWh/year at its best. This we can compare with:

      17.0/9.66 = 1.76
      18.0/9.66 = 1.86
      19.6/9.66 = 2.02

      Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant typically generates 86% more clean dispatchable electricity as the entire Colorado River basin, and in a good year, an even twice as much.

      As does Quad Cities and Indian Point, and as did SONGS.

      These things are mind-boggling staggering. No wonder so many folks are so afraid of them.

  2. It was concluded by a Brookhaven Labs study nearly 50 years ago that “the ideal mix is nuclear and pumped hydro”.

    https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015086584235;view=1up;seq=66 (page 58)

    The last paragraph of page 840 of this paper hints at what interrupted the expansion of such an ultra-low emissions, no-pollution energy supply


    “Relatively low natural gas prices in the late 1980s and 1990s increased the use of natural gas in the U.S. power sector. . In the 1990s, almost all of the new electrical generation capacity was gas-fired. Because PHES is essentially a peak-load technology, which competes directly with gas-fired power, low natural gas prices also help to explain the hiatus in PHES development in the late 1980s and 1990s along with the slowdown in new nuclear-power capacity.”

    Grid-scale storage already solved the perceived inflexibility issues of nuclear power decades ago, no sweat. It is incredible that now cheap storage is touted as the holy grail to enable wind and solar to rapidly take over the world’s energy supply, but crucially without consideration for how such infrastructure must be operated economically. Fortunately, some commentators and academics are starting to make headway, e.g.


  3. If I understand correctly, it appears that PG&E are incented to churn capital assets because it allows them to increase rates, a part of which is then profit. See http://www.ora.ca.gov/general.aspx?id=2034 . Perhaps it is even their fiduciary (shareholder) responsibility to: Increase costs of delivering energy;
    Maximize capital investments to replace infrastructure; and make
    capacity-driven additions needed to serve more energy load based on customer demand.  These objectives are obviously at odds with minimizing GHG emissions and the interests of ratepayers.

    1. @Todd:

      The power used to pump the water uphill is credited as power that has been sold by Diablo Canyon to the pumped storage facility. When the water is used to generate power, the pumped storage facility sells it to the grid. This works by buying the power when it’s cheap and selling it when it’s expensive. There are energy losses in both directions.

      1. PHS round-trip efficiency can exceed 80% — not shabby, particularly if you’re pumping with fixed-cost no-emissions baseload nuclear.

        EnergyStorage.Org has the goods on other storage techs as well. From a renewables perspective, compressed air energy storage (CAES) has the attraction of recuperating some of the waste heat from co-sited gas combustion turbines, thereby raising their efficiency as well.

        1. CAES hasn’t gone anywhere for quite some time.  There are just 2 grid-scale installations in the world, and it is obviously not attractive to build any right now in the USA because the limestone mine project in Ohio that was a candidate for conversion to an air reservoir has been cancelled.

          To get Sweden-class emissions levels, CAES will have to be adiabatic (no fossil-fired reheats).

          1. “To get Sweden-class emissions levels…”

            Well, that *is* what Dr. Nelson’s article is about now, isn’t it? Do we really want to achieve Sweden-class emissions level on a timescale that matters, or do we just newspeak our way around the cold, stark reality?

            “CAES will have to be adiabatic (no fossil-fired reheats).”

            Hmmm… Indeed. I suppose. What about, ah, nuclear reheats? 🙂

          2. Do we really want to achieve Sweden-class emissions level on a timescale that matters

            You already know my answer to this.

            What about, ah, nuclear reheats?

            You’d need at least 1 reheat in mid-expansion unless you were using something like the Fireball reactor, at 850°C.  All the heat exchangers start running into $$$.  Exhaust heat recovery followed by a single gas-fired reheat to 1300+ C is a lot cheaper, not that I care for it.

            If we can get sodium-cooled reactors at 500°C or so, Cal Abel’s scheme to use solar salt heat storage looks a lot cheaper, simpler and safer (everything at atmospheric pressure) than CAES.  It’s almost like the two things were made for each other.

    2. @Todd. DOE classifies capacity in excess of 30MW as large hydro. Helms Pumped Storage generating capacity is 1.2GW. It is fast response (6-8 minutes to full power) and has a total of 24 employees. Your question is interesting on several levels. I have not seen it written but assume that Helms is just any other user of whatever the composition of the pool of power is at minimum demand. I sent a question to PG&E asking if power from Helms is qualified as RE with respect to California’s RE mandate. The obvious motivating question is–does a dunk in the reservoir wash away the original sin of electrons generated by burning gas, or trash, or whale oil. Oh wait, two of those already sound like biofuels.

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