SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY, Calif. - The California State Water Resources Control Board is seeking new methods for cooling the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant.
"The water we pull from the Pacific Ocean, we use that to condense the steam that spins our turbines to create electricity", says PG&E Spokeperson Blair Jones, "what the policy is focusing on is instead of using the "once-through" cooling option into the Pacific, you would build potentially maybe cooling towers instead."
"The State Water Resources Control Board is looking at a number of alternatives of how Diablo Canyon may comply with the policy", Jones says, "they are looking at these potential alternatives, understanding there is great value from nuclear energy in the state, nuclear power like the Diablo Canyon Power Plant provides is a very safe facility and has the benefits of providing carbon-free power to about three million people in the state of California."
The Diablo Canyon Independent Safety Committee, formed by the California Public Utilities Commission as an advisory body, hosted a public meeting in San Luis Obispo Friday to discuss its response to a study by Bechtel Corporation on cooling towers at the Diablo Canyon site.
"These cooling towers can be outfitted with modern drift eliminators", said one of the DCISC members by phone, "what happens in the cooling tower is outside air is pulled through from the bottom of the cooling tower."
"I am sure that the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) is going to want to review this and review the death out of it", added NCISC member Bob Budnitz, "God bless em, we want them to, we want them to be there to to that for the public."
"What we observe here, this is one of the big ones for me, is the possibility that high salt deposition rates have the potential for increasing the likelihood of loss of off-site power", Budnitz says, "the reason that is important is because we rely heavily on the off-site power system to maintain the safety of the plant."
"We are concerned that using salt water for cooling and thereby having salt in the air, this could impact the reliability of the off-site power system", Budnitz says, "anybody who didn't understand that before should study what happening in Japan in March of 2011 in Fukushima where the thing that got them in trouble, they lost offsite power due to the earthquake and they lost the onsite power due to the tsunami and the plant had these large accidents."
The NCISC has made four recommendations based on the Bechtel report:
- Additional review and analysis for NRC Review
- Risk assessment analysis
- Analysis of saltwater intrusion
- Evaluate impact of cooling towers
One of the arguments made by long-standing critics and opponents of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant is the "once-through" cooling method is harmful to coastal marine life near the plant.
"To tell me that salt is a problem for you, that's probably something you should have thought of when you built the plant next to the ocean", said vocal plant opponent Joey Racano of Los Osos, "you're trying to tell me that it's dangerous to protect the ocean, it is dangerous to flout the law, and the law says you must protect the ocean."
"We look at the data over recent years and the fish populations in the area of the plant are very stable and rather healthy", says PG&E Spokesperson Blair Jones who adds building cooling towers at Diablo Canyon will be very expensive.
"The cooling tower option does look to be impractical based on extreme engineering and permitting concerns that would go with building structures like that on the site as well as being very costly for our customers", Jones says, "estimates range from 6 to 12 billion dollars to install cooling towers in place of our "once-through" cooling system."
The DCISC says the Bechtel study will be posted on its website, www.dcisc.org, for public review and comment.
The committee is expected to review the report again at its next meeting in September.