The Madeleine Brand Show

The Madeleine Brand Show is a daily, two-hour program that looks at news and culture through the lens of Southern California. Hosted by Madeleine Brand

An update on the status of California's nuclear power industry

by The Madeleine Brand Show

33644 full
Evening sets on the San Onofre atomic power plant December 6, 2004 in northern San Diego County, south of San Clemente, California. David McNew/Getty Images

The nuclear power generation industry is facing tough times. There was, of course, the Fukushima disaster, which caused a re-evaluation of nuclear programs across the glob. Germany is planning to shut down all their reactors within ten years.

Here in the U. S., there's been greater scrutiny, but no plans to abandon nuclear power. Still, as we know, the San Onofre plant has been shut down because of problems with coolant pipes that were recently installed.

Yesterday, the CEO of Edison, which runs the plant, indicated at a shareholder's meeting that the company still hasn't determined what's causing excessive wear in the pipes. And he said there's no timeline on re-opening that plant.

Another plant in Diablo Canyon is also having issues. The culprit there is something called a salp. It's kind of like a jellyfish. It joins up with a lot of other salp to form long chains, so many in Diablo Canyon, in fact, that they've clogged the intake filters that bring in sea water to cool the reactors.

While the first reactor at Diablo Canyon was already shut down for refueling, the other has now been shut down because of the salp. The net result is that as of this moment, California has no nuclear power generated electricity.

When both San Onofre and Diablo Canyon are operating at full capacity they can provide about 14 percent of our electricity. Fortunately right now we've got pretty mild weather, and there are other facilities that can take up the slack. But if both of these plants were to remain offline for an extended period, say through the hot summer months, there could be a problem.

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