RSS

The Bulletin

California energy prices soar following nuclear shutdown

Posting in Design

California Dreamin'. With the shutdown of the San Onofre nuclear station along the San Diego coast, California can only dream of lower energy prices.

--

California's troubled San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station goes by the acronym "SONGS", and if there were a tune to describe its recent closure, it could be the 1980s classic Turning Japanese.

Like  Japan before it, the U.S. state is discovering that shutting down nuclear power stations can push energy prices sky high.

Citing the U.S. Energy Information Administration, World Nuclear News reported that California's wholesale electricity prices surged by 59 percent in the first half of 2013, largely due to the San Onofre shut down that took hold in 2012 with the discovery of steam leaks.

The closure also created a rare rift in wholesale electricity prices between southern and northern California. San Onofre is located in the south, near San Diego.

"Since April 2012, wholesale power prices in the southern part of the state have on average tracked some 12% higher than those in northern California as the 'relatively inexpensive' nuclear generation produced by SONGS had to be replaced with power from other, more costly, sources," WNN noted.

Japan's shutdown of nearly all of its 50 nuclear reactors following the Fukushima disaster led to expensive imports of fossil fuels that pushed the country into a record trade deficit as it scrambled to replace nuclear's 30 percent contribution to the country's electricity.

Japan is now moving close to a partial nuclear restart to help regain its economic footing. Its shutdowns were on a much larger scale than California's, but its economic lessons should open eyes in the West Coast state.

Photo: awnisALAN via Wikimedia

More lessons for California from Japan:

And here's an archive of stories about alternative nuclear technologies - thorium fuel, liquid reactors, etc. - that could replace conventional designs like those at SONGS, and usher in even safer and more affordable nuclear. (Link added around 9:10 a.m. PDT following the "today v. tomorrow" comment from reader Art Williams below).

— By on August 11, 2013, 10:27 PM PST

Mark Halper

Contributing Editor

Mark Halper has written for TIME, Fortune, Financial Times, the UK's Independent on Sunday, Forbes, New York Times, Wired, Variety and The Guardian. He is based in Bristol, U.K. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure