California's Carbon Emissions Soar With Nuclear Exclusions

Energy and environmental research group Environmental Progress has announced a freshly released study that finds the climate-threatening emissions from the power generation industry in California has created 250 percent more emissions than it would have if built and planned nuclear power plants in the state had remained open or reached fruition.

California Emissions GraphThe group did not include nuclear power plants that were planned, but did not come close to construction. However, it counted the emissions records that would have been improved – based on a capacity factor of 92 percent, the national average – had planned reactors of Diablo Canyon Units 3,4, and 5 and Sun Desert Nuclear Power Plant, a two-unit proposal, been realized. Researches also included two plants closed earlier than necessary, the Rancho Seco Nuclear Generating Station and San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

The reasoning behind the inclusions of these reactors is based on the lack of political will to carry out the construction and maintenance issues that would have resulted in more carbon-free sources of power for the state. The actual reasoning for nuclear plant closures or failures to build, Environmental Progress said, transcended the public relations statements offered to the media, which generally states that a nuclear power plant closure or failure to construct was based on economic reasons. These statements are issued as on-the-record decrees, yet they are a mainly public relations statements, because no company wants a press release that says, “We are closing or failing to build a nuclear power plant because the public rose up in opposition to it.”

In contrast, the group said, there is no real upper limit on the age of a nuclear power plant. They close because there isn't the will to keep them going. “Nuclear power plants can be constantly refurbished and plants replaced for 60 to 80 and perhaps many more years,” the group said. “They have no known upper age limit.”

The group also said its numbers are conservative, as the research assumed that the power that would have been created by emissions-free reactors was replaced by natural gas. In point of fact, the replacement generation is more pernicious than that, the group said, as a significant portion of the power shortfall is made up through burning coal, a more harmful replacement.

In short, the group said, “Had those plants been constructed and stayed open, 73 percent of the power produced in California would be from clean (very low carbon) energy sources, as opposed to just 34 percent."

Furthermore, “Of that clean power, 48 percent would have been from nuclear rather than 9 percent.”

The study found that power company emissions in the state in 2014 were 30.5 million metric tons higher than they would have been with a secured and realized nuclear plant track record.

As such, the state's emissions was “equal or greater than the power sector emissions produced by 23 states including Virginia, Minnesota, New Jersey, Washington, and Massachusetts.  And it was greater than the total commercial, power, residential, industrial and transportation emissions of eight states including Idaho, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island,” Environmental Progress said.

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