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Letter to Gov. Brown and Dep. Secretary Crowfoot

Letter to Governor Brown and Deputy Secretary Wade Crowfoot

23 April 2015

California Governor Jerry Brown and
Deputy Secretary Wade Crowfoot
State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Governor Brown & Secretary Crowfoot:

You have an excellent opportunity to aid the environment, reduce carbon emissions, strengthen California’s energy sources, and address our water needs.
We’re also writing in appreciation of Wade’s excellent talk and openminded discussion at Google in Mt. View last week. Below are issues we believe need immediate executive and/or legislative action:

    Substation storage
    Diablo Canyon turbine upgrade
    Nuclear added to utility RPS
    San Onofre repair

Let’s start with one that Wade thought last Wednesday is a “good idea”:

a) Substation storage. California presently produces more peak solar power (primarily from environmentally-sound, on-structure PV) than can be used at once or stored for later need. This will only get worse as we add to our local PV generation. For example, observe a Fresno church:

We know that ultimately, efficient electrical storage will eliminate such management burdens & waste, but that doesn’t yet exist. It will. As engineers, we urge you to direct the CPUC & CEC to develop procedures to allow utilities to dedicate portions of their new/existing substations to electrical storage, as reasonably-efficient technologies emerge. This may require legislation to encourage such development and allow utilities to capitalize, maintain and be compensated for it.

In any case, it will remove the inefficient, uneconomic burden for storage at each utility customer’s PV site. And, the local power grid will become far more robust.

b) Diablo Canyon turbine upgrade. Some years back, the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant was offered a new, more efficient, low-pressure steam turbine stage by the turbine manufacturer. The new turbine was installed in each of the two steam power stages. The result was 70MW total added output to the California grid. In other words, clean power for about 70,000 homes was suddenly coming onto our grid from Diablo Canyon, for no modification to the plant’s nuclear steam generation. The result was reduced emissions for our state, or at least accommodation of some population growth without added emissions.

A bit later, the turbine vendor offered a more efficient high-pressure stage to the station. It would add another 70MW or so of power with no nuclear modification. PG&E management considered it, until realizing that the installation would bring it over the station’s mandated power limit by about 50MW. It was clear from anti-nuclear activities then, that various groups would use that as a tricky way to attack the station’s continued operation, much as is being done today, using the CWRCB and our state’s legislated ban on ‘new’ nuclear power.

Thus, our own laws have been used against clean energy, in this case, for tens of thousands of homes & businesses. In order to replace those tens of MW of clean power from Diablo Canyon, we simply burn more gas, or even more coal at southwestern coal generators.

This doesn’t help our state’s image or its reality. It needs executive action, or legislative correction as to what “new” nuclear power means in our state.

c) Nuclear added to utility RPS. The “Renewable Portfolio Standard” is an imaginary construct, since conservation of energy means energy isn’t “renewed”, but simply transformed and dissipated to less usable forms.

Given that physical reality, the closest to being ‘renewable’ energy sources are solar and nuclear (geothermal is nuclear). The others are all subject to climate change, to which China and our Colorado River dams can testify. Solar lasts us until the sun expands to gobble us up. Nuclear lasts as long as there are any rocky/watery bodies in the solar system.

Some US states are already moving to include nuclear power in their RPS equivalents, and a bill (#5091) is in the Washington State Senate will allow utility customers to designate nuclear as one of their ‘green’ sources. Ohio, Maine and other states have written, or are even writing, bills supporting advanced-nuclear power technologies.

Instead, California has hobbled its emissions reduction possibilities via a law that ties federal used nuclear fuel disposal to our ability to add clean power and reduce combustion power in or out of our state. Illinois is about 50% nuclear powered. Chicago is about 70% nuclear powered. Ontario burns no coal now and is 60% nuclear powered. And, we should all remember that
France has been 70% nuclear powered for years and emits ½ the CO2 we in California or the US do.

Consider our Diablo Canyon and Helms hydro-storage daily operations. Diablo Canyon alone supplies about 5% of all California power — 2.4GW. It does so at a cost to PG&E of $.04/kWHr. At night, it delivers 1GW of pumping to the Helms storage reservoir, to be ready for the next day’s peak load. Thus, every day, our Diablo/Helms system is able to meet over 7% of all California power demands, with no emissions. If hydro is in our RPS, then how is it possible to exclude nuclear?

We damage our environment and our state’s reputation by maintaining the fiction that nuclear is to be excluded from our RPS for any reason. This needs prompt correction. Doing so will, in fact, speed emissions reductions and water production, as explained below.

d) Desalination. Our long-forecast drought has exposed our curious lack of planning. Now it’s crunch time.

In a year or so, a new desalinator at Carlsbad is scheduled to start delivering about 50 million gallons of water per day to San Diego County. That’s about 7% of what the county uses. To just provide water for San Diego County residents means building 14 Carlsbad-sized desalinators.

San Diego County is about 10% of California in population. We thus would need about 140 Carlsbad desalinators to simply allow our citizens to meet present water needs. Agriculture would be excluded. Desalinators are planned at Cambria, or to be rejuvenated at Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz. Desalination takes considerable power, depending on the technology used. The most efficient Carlsbad system alone will consume tens of MW, 24/7**.

Where does the clean power for these new water sources come from? What are currently listed as “renewables” (wind/solar/hydro/geo) by California cannot begin to meet the demands of tens of Carlsbad equivalents, certainly not 100 or so.

Diablo Canyon will indeed help run Cambria’s planned desalinator. Maybe it’ll help future ones at Santa Cruz, or even Santa Barbara. Perhaps a few of the electrons driving Carlsbad’s pumps will have been pushed that way by Diablo Canyon?

But, California reality now is that desalination will be critical for survival and that only nuclear power can cleanly meet the need. The need is astounding – 2-3 new, Diablo-Canyon-sized nuclear plants just to employ the best desalination technologies to provide Californians with potable water.

Our legislation must begin to reflect this reality – a reality other states and nations already realize.

e) San Onofre repair. Like Diablo Canyon, San Onofre supplied about 5% of all California power, cleanly, while producing about $200,000/hour in electricity sales. It provided hundreds of excellent jobs, millions of dollars to the local economy and many millions of $ to county tax revenue. And, like Diablo Canyon, it received no recognition of its emissions elimination,
not even via carbon credits, etc.

San Onofre was closed via manipulation of California law and NRC procedures. Despite Mitsubishi Heavy Industries being directly responsible for the failure of the steam-generation equipment it provided, California did not intervene with prosecution, penalty, or other common industrial compensation means.

Instead, California, our CPUC and Southern California Edison have now exposed our citizens to upwards of $7 billion in wasteful decommissioning costs and increases in emissions equivalent to about 2 million homes powered by coal generation. Then too are the job and county revenue losses.
Ohio fixed their equivalent plant – Davis-Besse, operated by FirstEnergy. It had its steam generators replaced for $600 million last year. It was restarted, and has eliminated several coal plants’ worth of emissions. Did our Attorney General sue Mitsubishi? Did our CPUC advise SCE to call Ohio to find out who fixed their plant’s similar issue?

We know the answer, of course, and California is now the butt of jokes
about our resultant emissions increases* sullying our self-proclaimed ‘greenness’:

If Ontario, Ohio, France… can all reduce/eliminate coal/gas emissions, so can we. So can our administrators and Legislature. We can direct that, in this environmental & water emergency. San Onofre can be repaired and restarted. Someone can call FirstEnergy and get the number of whoever replaced their steam generators. We’d then have eliminated our embarrassing coal & gas emissions excess, and have $ billions to direct elsewhere, such as to water needs for our citizens.

No delay is conscionable, given SCE’s May start to decommissioning..

f) A Note on ‘Renewables’. Power sources that are variable over a period of interest (day, month, year) pose a problem to those depending on power. Utilities generally sell not simply power, but reliable power – 99.99% or better availability of power.

‘Renewables’ express their unreliability via an average, Capacity Factor (CF). If the peak power, say from a PV or wind ‘farm’, is 1MW over its best hour, but averages 0.2MW over the whole day, then its CF = 2/10 – we paid for windmills or solar panels able to generate 1MW without damage, but they end up giving us only 1/5 that over a whole day (or week/month/year). See German wind graph below.*

A nuclear or combustion plant, in contrast, has a CF around 9/10, meaning we need only a little extra reserve somewhere to keep us getting the full power we were sold every hour of every day.
A small CF thus means we must spend lots of $ (land…) to make up for large amounts of low-power times. We can’t do this with storage alone, as some think, because storage doesn’t generate energy. In order to get a system with CF = 1/5 up to near 1, we’d need to buy and install about 5
times as much wind/solar generators, and then provide storage able to deliver the 1MW we need continuously.

However, that storage must be designed to handle about 5 times the charging rate than its delivery (discharging) rate, particularly if something like solar is supplying the charge – the sun is only up several hours and, when it is, we’re getting the power from about 5 times the number of solar cells we’d need if the sun were up all day. The storage system must be designed to handle such a huge difference in charge/discharge rates – difficult & expensive.

Energy sources with high CFs are much more efficient and economical. If we throw in the need to reduce/eliminate emissions and reduce environmental impacts, then we find few options, nuclear being the best, hydro & geothermal less so.

Summing Up, the points above deserve serious attention from all California
administrators and legislators. We all know we’re in difficult times. We also
know these are not surprising problems.

We, signing this letter to you, are concerned scientists, engineers and environmentalists. We want to get our state on track and will be happy to help. We request a meeting with you both, at your earliest convenience, to discuss these matters further and move to action.


Dr. Alexander Cannara (contact)
Menlo Park, CA 94025

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Anthony Armini PhD
Nipomo, CA 93444

Raul Brenner
San Luis Obispo CA, 93401
Carl Page
Palo Alto, CA 94131
Michael Carey
Menlo Park, CA 94025
Dr. Michael Pelizzari
Milpitas, CA 95035
Caroline Cochran Arthur Pritchard
Mt. View, Calif. 94041
Michael Conley
Los Angeles, CA 90026
Charles Riley
Menlo Park, CA 94025<
Dr. Jacob DeWitte

Stan Scott
Menlo Park, CA 94025
William Gloege
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
Rudy Stefenel
Milpitas, CA 95035
Dr. Robert Greene, PhD.
Mountain View, CA 94041
Herb Vanderbeek
Palo Alto, Calif.
Benjamin Hammett, PhD.
Palo Alto, CA 94301
Robert Wallace
Saratoga, CA 95070
Walter Horsting
Sacramento, CA 95835
Matt Wilkinson
Napa,. CA 94559
Joseph S. Ivora
Orcutt, CA 93455
Jack Wiren
Santa Clara, CA 95055
Gene Nelson, PhD.
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
Fred Zeise
Milpitas. CA 95035

PS, many of us will be at the conference below on 3-4 June, and you are
both cordially invited, along with any other California officials. We will
have a legislative discussion period…

* Refs . . .

French Power. . .


Ontario, Canada Power . . . l” target=”_blank”>


German Wind (blue spikes = low CF) . . .

power industry, ran at over 50% of their rated capacity only for 461 hours,
or just 5.2% of the time.” Fig. 25 Interventions)
** Desalination energy estimation . . .

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