Marine Protection Tradeoffs

By Published On: September 7, 2012

Grid reliability in Southern California is complicated by a state policy requiring coastal power plants that use ocean water for cooling to shut down or be repowered with installation of closed loop cooling systems over years ahead. Marine life is killed when run through power plant cooling systems. It also can be wiped out when it comes into contact with heat plumes created by discharged water from the plants. Under the State Water Resources Control Board’s policy, the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station could consume up to 2,574 million gallons of ocean water/day at least through 2022. Nearby gas-fired plants must close long before then under the policy, even though they use considerably less water. Closing San Onofre and removing the fuel from its core would eliminate use of ocean water there for cooling that’s equivalent, for instance, to the amount used by two fossil fuel plants that were considered large in their heyday. One, the AES Alamitos plant, could produce 2,000 MW, almost as much as San Onofre, using less than half the water at 1,282 million gallons/day. The other, the company’s old Redondo Generating Station, could produce 1,310 MW using 1,146 million gallons/day of seawater. In essence, closing San Onofre and not using ocean water there for cooling the nuclear reactors could conceivably allow some of the old Southern California fossil fuel units to operate a bit longer than now planned without compromising the state’s marine life protection goals. That should eliminate any concerns about reliability.

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