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With blackouts looming, California should go nuclear

With blackouts looming, California should go nuclear
Orange County Register / by Susan Shelley / 2h

Last August, after rolling blackouts hit California during a heat wave, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered an investigation.

The report on the root causes of the August blackouts was completed in January. The problem was caused by lack of “resource adequacy” and “planning.” The people making decisions about how much power would be needed in California were routinely underestimating the demand for electricity.

It’s happening again. Summer, it turns out, was unexpected.

The great thing about underestimating California’s power needs is that everybody can pretend the state can run on solar and wind energy, thereby feeling good that we’re doing something to stop climate change. Unmentioned is that California now imports more electricity than any other state, and how that power is generated is somebody else’s problem.

Thanks to California’s reliance on imported electricity, a forest fire in Oregon last weekend almost caused the California power grid to fail again and cause blackouts. On Thursday afternoon, California power officials frantically ordered another Flex Alert, the third of the summer. The weather was hot, and air conditioners would be running. And then, unexpectedly, the sun would go down.

That’s exactly the kind of unforeseen incident that caused rolling blackouts last August. Solar farms stopped generating electricity just when everybody needed it most.

Thankfully, California still has some gas-fired power plants left over from the “before times” when people solved problems instead of worshipping them. Three plants in Long Beach, Oxnard and Redondo Beach were supposed to be closed last year but somebody thought better of it after last summer’s events.

Unfortunately, the plants were having a bit of mechanical trouble — perhaps maintenance isn’t a priority for facilities that are expected to be shut down —a nd on Thursday afternoon they could only manage to run at about one-third of their capacity.

California sent firefighters to Oregon to help battle the inferno that was coming dangerously close to the transmission lines bringing us the electricity our solar farms refused to generate after dark.

Faced with the very real risk of widespread power outages less than 90 days before a recall election, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an emergency proclamation that allowed fossil fuel plants to run even if they produced more air pollution than regulators allowed. Limits on portable generators were lifted, too.

The fire in Oregon did knock out the transmission lines, and suddenly California was without 4,000 megawatts of imported electricity to bail us out of the idiotic decisions we have made to mandate more and more renewable energy, but to count only wind and solar, not nuclear or hydro power, as “renewable.”

The state’s grid operators did what they could do, and cranked up what they could crank up, but they had to declare a Stage 2 emergency and tell the state’s large private utility companies to get ready to implement rolling blackouts.

We squeaked by this time, because the gas-fired plants and the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant kept running.

Like the gas-fired plants, the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant is set to be closed down. But unlike the gas-fired plants, the Diablo Canyon plant does not produce greenhouse gases. Nuclear power does not contribute to global warming.

Over the weekend, former Governor Jerry Brown was interviewed by NBC’s Conan Nolan, who asked Brown about climate change. Brown once again described, in the usual ghoulish terms, how the climate will kill us all in “decades” if we don’t stop using fossil fuels.

“If our existence is on the line,” Nolan asked, “why not nuclear?”

The former governor described “a whole complexity” involving federal regulatory authorities, terrorists learning to make nuclear bombs, and dangerous accidents with radioactive waste. “Now having said all that, the risk of climate change is existential and is a horror,” he said, “so there are a lot of people that think we should even expand, significantly, the nuclear power plants we have. I can’t, honestly, I can’t tell you who’s right, but I can tell you some very bright people are on both sides.”

You’d better hope they’re bright enough to read by, because California’s idiotic policies are turning out the lights.

Write Susan Shelley: [email protected] and follow her on Twitter: @Susan_Shelley.