Keeping Diablo Canyon could save $21 billion: MIT, Stanford scientists


PG & E Corp in California. Diablo Canyon Factory. (Joe Johnston / San Luis Obispo Tribune / Tribunnews Service via Getty Images)

San Luis Obispo Tribune | Tribunnews Services | Getty Images

Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University have published a 113-page report outlining how to remodel the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in California. Currently, the power plant has been discontinued and is scheduled to close in August 2025.

The plan saves up to $ 21 billion in grid costs by keeping Diablo Canyon open until 2050.

In addition, leaving the plant open until 2050 protects 90,000 acres of land that need to be covered with solar panels to meet California’s climate goals. Scientists have also proposed that Diablo Canyon can be used as a site for desalination plants to supply the state with the water it needs and to produce hydrogen for use in clean energy solutions. increase.

Title report “Evaluation of Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plants for Zero Carbon Power, Desalination, and Hydrogen Production” Published in November, it aims to spark a new public conversation about the future of nuclear power plants.

PG & EThe owner of Diablo Canyon told CNBC that it has not reconsidered its decision to abolish and close the plant. But the scientists behind the report hope that another utility may take over.

“In the United States, there have been many changes in ownership of such nuclear power plants over the years,” he said. Jacopo Buongiorno, Professor of Nuclear Science Engineering at MIT, led the collaborative work of the report.

Buongiorno started the project in September 2020 with Sally Benson, a professor of energy resource engineering at Stanford University. The final report lists eight authors, including seven scholars and one consultant. Clear catalyst, Clean Energy and Decarbonization Strategic Company.

“All funding for the research came from the university’s internal resources and charitable donations. Funding from industry was not sought and accepted,” Buongiorno told CNBC.

Cost and land savings

California State Legislature passed two regulations in 2018, requiring the state to move to a 100% carbon-neutral energy source by 2045.

According to Ejeong Baik, a Stanford University doctoral candidate who led the power analysis, if Diablo Canyon goes live between the current expiration dates of 2025 and 2035, the cumulative cost savings for the energy grid will be 26. It will be 100 million dollars.

If Diablo is up and running until 2050, the cumulative savings on the energy grid will be $ 21 billion.

Cost savings come from reducing the spending on natural gas, photovoltaics, and energy storage technologies needed to replace the 2,240 MW power output provided by Diablo Canyon.

“Achieving California’s climate goals requires continued development and investment in renewable energy and energy storage technologies. Maintaining Diablo Canyon reduces the construction burden required for these resources. Ultimately, it also helps reduce system costs, “says Bike.

In addition, if California were to replace the energy provided by Diablo Canyon with solar panels, it would require 90,000 acres of land.

Chart of the report “Evaluation of Zero Carbon Power, Desalination and Hydrogen Production at Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plants” published by MIT and Stanford scientists. It shows the land area required to replace the Diablo Canyon with solar panels.

From the report “Evaluation of Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plants for Zero Carbon Power, Desalination, and Hydrogen Production” published by MIT and Stanford scientists.

Other use cases: desalting and hydrogen

Scientists at MIT and Stanford have built a desalination plant in place and used the nuclear energy produced by Diablo Canyon to build so-called clean hydrogen, in addition to the power benefits of keeping Diablo Canyon open. It is envisioned to add two sources of revenue by manufacturing.

California needs clean fresh water as many of the states are suffering Extreme to exceptional drought conditions..

For the report, scientists used a “reverse osmosis” technique in which salt water is extruded through a semipermeable membrane that blocks salt to create a desalination plant similar in size to an existing plant in Carlsbad, California. Proposed to build. According to the report, desalination of seawater is ubiquitous in the Middle East and North Africa, but it requires a lot of energy, so it makes sense to place the desalination plant in the same location as the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. It’s good.

According to the report, the cost of clean water produced in Diablo Canyon is up to 50% cheaper than that produced in Carlsbad.

According to the report, desalination technology will be placed at least 1,000 feet in water at a depth of at least 1,000 feet from the coast to protect marine habitats near the coast.

Chart of the report “Evaluation of Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plants for Zero Carbon Power, Desalting, and Hydrogen Production”, published by MIT and Stanford scientists, showing proposals for desalination techniques.

Report “Evaluation of Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plants for Zero Carbon Power, Desalting, and Hydrogen Production” published by MIT and Stanford scientists.

The report also envisions additional revenue from building a clean hydrogen plant connected to Diablo Canyon.

Hydrogen is emerging as a potential component of clean energy solutions.When consumed in a fuel cell such as a battery to produce electricity, hydrogen is produced. water As its only waste. However, the production of hydrogen itself requires energy. Energy can emit greenhouse gases, depending on the source.Therefore, hydrogen Energy carrier, Or how to make energy more portable than the energy source itself.

Hydrogen is produced from water by breaking down molecules into their components (hydrogen and oxygen) in a process called the case of The energy used in electrolysis is renewable or carbon-free, Then it is considered clean. (Colloquially, hydrogen production has the following arbitrary number of classifications: Green, blue, pink, brown hydrogen, Which Slightly different based on source.. )

In this case, scientists are proposing the construction of a high temperature steam electrolysis (HTSE) plant with a footprint of approximately 20 acres. The hydrogen plant operates in conjunction with a desalination plant that supplies the fresh water needed to produce hydrogen.

The clean hydrogen produced at Diablo Canyon produces 110 million kilograms of hydrogen annually, costing $ 2.01 to $ 2.46 per kilogram. This saves up to 50% on the current cost range of hydrogen produced by wind or solar power. According to the report, it is cost competitive with the hydrogen produced by the recovery of natural gas and carbon.

There is little chance of a reversal

The overwhelming anti-nuclear sentiment within the state helped boost the decision to close the factory in 2018. CNBC previously reported..

Therefore, scientists say economics justifies keeping Diablo Canyon open, but PG & E says it doesn’t rethink that decision.

“The state has clarified its position on nuclear power, and plans to abolish the Diablo Canyon power plant have been approved by the California Public Utility Commission and the State Council,” said Susanne Hosson, a spokesperson for PG & E. “Therefore, our focus is to operate the plant safely and reliably until the end of the NRC license, which expires in 2024 and 2025.”

Buongiorno is not surprised.

“They were the signers of the 2018 settlement that led to the decision to close Diablo, so we can’t expect them to be in a different position,” Buongi Orno told CNBC. “But we don’t expect PG & E to continue to be the owner and operator of Diablo. They will be replaced by another utility.”

There are other barriers. For example, the public utility commission of California, the state’s energy regulator, needs to spend about $ 1 billion on seismic refurbishments and refurbishments, including new water cooling systems, before reverting the closure to anyone who owns the plant. Said there is.

Buongiorno said the CPUC was wrong about the need for seismic retrofitting, and the Federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission said it wasn’t necessary, but acknowledged that Diablo needed a new water cooling system. The cost of that system was included in the analysis of the report.

But the debate is probably academic, as most spectators believe that Diablo’s fate is fixed.

Wade Shauer, When the group was the research director of the consultant group Wood Mackenzie Extensive report on Diablo Canyon published in 2016, Stanford-I agree with much of MIT’s work. But I think he’s too late to undo the closing. Politically, the state has already moved to other solutions such as wind and solar.

“Many of the planned offshore wind developments will not be possible unless Diablo Canyon closes its substation to open it for interconnection with offshore wind power plants,” Schauer told CNBC. “There are many permits, new cooling technologies, and many public opposition required by the NRC and state agencies. It seems very unlikely that the life of the Diablo Canyon will be extended.”

Schauer considers it bad news for the state.

“California could pay more for zero-carbon generation, reliable backup capacity, and water and hydrogen over the next 10 to 20 years than if Diablo Canyon was left open. There is sex. “

Keeping Diablo Canyon could save $21 billion: MIT, Stanford scientists Source link Keeping Diablo Canyon could save $21 billion: MIT, Stanford scientists

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