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San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant To Shut Down

Benjamin Li |
June 10, 2013 | 9:08 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

San Onofre Nuclear Reactors, Timothy Tolle via Creative Commons
San Onofre Nuclear Reactors, Timothy Tolle via Creative Commons
After 16 months of legal battles and federal evaluations, the San Onofre nuclear power plant is scheduled to shut down for good in the coming months.  

In 2012, the power plant was deemed unfit to stay active after an investigation by federal regulators revealed excessive wear and tear in tubes and pipes essential to a steam generator inside the plant. The San Onofre plant has not produced any electricity since reports emerged of small quantities of radioactive steam leaking from the damaged reactor pipes.

On June 7th, Southern California Edison, the company that owns and manages the San Onofre plant, officially announced that the plant will be closing after 500 million dollars in attempted repairs and months of legal, regulatory, and political disputes.

Plans to reopen at least one of the on-site reactors have been abandoned by Southern California Edison because of the uncertainty surrounding the future of the nuclear reactors. 

San Onofre’s impending closure reflects growing discontentment with the dangers and consequences of nuclear power, and the rising support for other forms of clean, renewable energy sources like solar and wind power in California. 

“The people of California now have the opportunity to move away from the failed promise of dirty and dangerous nuclear power and replace it with the safe and clean energy of the sun and the wind,” said Erich Pica, the president of environmental activist group Friends of the Earth, in a press conference on the closure of the nuclear plant.

The number of active nuclear power plants nationwide is swiftly dwindling as demand dies down thanks to a combination of legal dilemmas, financial issues, and growing political opposition.

According to the Huffington Post, nuclear plants are being shut down across the nation – MidAmerican Energy and Duke Energy both cancelled plans for new nuclear plants in Iowa and North Carolina, while Toshiba and NRG Energy were forbidden to complete two nuclear plants in Texas because of U.S. regulation on foreign ownership of nuclear plants.

Renewable energy advocates like Diane Moss, Founding Director of Renewables 100 Policy Institute, welcome the closure of the San Onofre nuclear plant and what it signifies for Californian energy sources. 

“The closing of the San Onofre nuclear power plant is an opportunity for California to march forward more quickly to find energy solutions based on renewable energy and efficiency,” said Diane Moss in an interview.  

Nonetheless, 1.4 million Southern Californian homes that used to rely on nuclear energy from the San Onofre nuclear power plant now need to find a new source of energy. 

The Californian Independent System Operator, a non-profit organization responsible for most of California’s electrical needs, estimates that the peak energy demand a day in California is somewhere around 30,000 megawatts. But on a daily basis, California only produces 6,000 megawatts from renewable sources.

But the question remains, can renewable energy sources like solar and wind power truly replace conventional power sources quickly enough to maintain a steady supply of energy to California?

“Our policies haven’t been supportive of forms of energy other than conventional ones like fossil fuels and nuclear power,” Diane Moss explains. “If it gains support, renewable energy can be implemented incredibly fast: you can put solar panels on any rooftop, windmills on a farm – energy sources near where folks are going to use it.”

In the coming months, Californians will have to start making long-term decisions about how to compensate its permanent loss of nuclear energy. 

Contact Staff Reporter Benjamin Li here



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