On Thursday,a letter to Governor Jerry Brown of California, about how nuclear energy was essential to fighting global warming, was sent by Dr. James Hansen and the leading climate scientists in the world, plus a long list of environmentalists.
The letter was prompted by a recent announcement by Pacific Gas & Electric Company to close its well-running, low-carbon, low-cost nuclear reactors at Diablo Canyon because of political pressure from the state of California and especially its Lt. Governor.
The widespread claim—that dozens of nuclear plants merit subsidies to protect the earth’s climate—has been borne out by reality. At the same time, tax subsidies for renewables, plus low natural gas prices, are making reactors uneconomic in the short term.
New York addressed this imbalance last week when it passed a true Clean Energy Standard that supports both renewables and nuclear. Passage came after all parties acknowledged carbon emissions would go up if even a single nuclear plant closed.
But, strangely, California doesn’t seem impressed by the threat of global warming, even after the state’s carbon emissions jumped when the San Onofre nuclear plant closed from a combination of technical and political reasons. That carbon-free electricity was replaced by natural gas and costly out-of-state purchases.
Similarly, if Diablo Canyon closes, its almost 18 billion kWhs per year, the largest and lowest-carbon electricity generation in California, will be replaced by less than 2 billion kWhs per year of similarly-low-carbon renewables, less than 2 billion kWhs per year from efficiency, and over 10 billion kWhs per year from high-carbon natural gas and more out-of-state purchases. California would have little hope of achieving its emissions goals by 2030.
Global Warming does not care what technology is used, just how much carbon is emitted. All wind energy in California only produced 12 billion kWhs in 2015, much less than Diablo Canyon. The two Diablo Canyon nuclear reactors would produce almost 18 billion kWhs every year for the next 25 years if not prematurely closed for political reasons. Since wind turbines have to be replaced about every 20 years, this means that just to stay even, California would have to install three times as many wind turbines as exist today. The are no plans for installing that many wind turbines.
Which is why James Hansen, and most of the rest of us, seem at wit’s end at such foolishness on the part of what is usually the most environmentally-conscious state. It’s as if the Governor’s Mansion ideological hatred of nuclear exceeds their concern about global warming.