Recent announcements regarding nuclear reactors under construction in Georgia and South Carolina illustrate the problems with spiraling costs and rolling construction delays that continue to plague nuclear power. In contrast, the cost of solar and wind has declined dramatically over the past decade. In many cases these GHG-free resources now provide the lowest-cost opportunity for new electricity generation resources.
The decline in the cost of solar and wind—as well as the continued availability of low cost efficiency improvements—are key factors supporting the proposal to retire and replace the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant with GHG-free resources, as reiterated in a recent letter to the California Public Utilities Commission. The diverse organizations that form this coalition support the need for prompt action to initiate procurement of replacement resources in order to avoid an increase in emissions and to advance California’s bold greenhouse gases (GHG) reduction goals.
Analysis of the cost of alternatives to Diablo Canyon clearly demonstrates that retirement and replacement with GHG-free resources will lower total costs to consumers. And a diverse portfolio of these resources—along with investments in storage and demand response—will provide greater flexibility to accommodate system needs. There is an abundant resource base for solar and wind, and siting, permitting, and construction is relatively straightforward, but advance planning and early action will be necessary to avoid an uptick in emissions when Diablo Canyon is shuttered, like what occurred when the San Onofre nuclear power plant was retired unexpectedly.
Overall, the collaborative effort to retire and replace Diablo Canyon with GHG-free resources provides a clear demonstration that utilities, workers, communities, and energy consumers can all benefit from a clean energy strategy that protects the environment and provides reliable electricity.