Contradictory Report Pushes to Slash Diablo’s Seawater Use

By Published On: November 21, 2013

Significantly curbing the amount of water used to cool the 2,200 MW Diablo Canyon nuclear plant is feasible, according to a new report. It contradicts claims in a recent Bechtel report that installing cooling towers at Diablo would be cost prohibitive and fail to meet the state-mandated water use reduction deadline. Bechtel's cooling tower construction cost and time estimates are “not credible,” according to the report jointly produced by Powers Engineering and Pisces Conservation for Friends of the Earth. These alternative findings were presented to the State Water Resources Control Board’s advisory committee on once-through cooling of nuclear plants Nov. 21. Diablo owner, Pacific Gas & Electric, and Bechtel are using the latter’s report released in September “to erroneously argue that it’s too expensive and complicated for them to clean up their operations,” asserted FOE. The report takes issue with Bechtel's proposal to level a mountain at a cost of over $3 billion to excavate and make way for cooling towers instead of using the current site (Current, Oct. 10, 2013). The alternate report also rejects the estimated 13-year construction schedule, which is well beyond the state’s once-through cooling phase-out date of 2024. Contrary to Bechtel’s recommendation of fine screen meshes to reduce the fish kills and other impacts, the vying report states that entrainment can only be curbed by reducing the amount of water pulled into the plant. After years of debate, the state water board agreed to a policy to phase out once-through cooling at coastal power plants or reduce the use by 90 percent because of the ongoing harm to aquatic life from the pulling in of seawater and expelling heated wastewater. With the closure of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, Diablo uses far more seawater for cooling than any other plant in California—up to 2.5 billion gallons/day.

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