Q&A: Alternatives to Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant | MIT News

The Diablo Canyon nuclear plant in California, which is still operating in the state, is set to close in 2025. a team of researchers MIT’s Center for Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems, the Abdul Latif Jameel Water and Food Systems Lab, and the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research; Stanford’s Precourt Energy Institute, And energy analysis firm Lucid Catalyst LLC has analyzed the potential benefits the plant could provide if its operations were extended to 2030 or 2045.

They found that this nuclear plant could simultaneously help stabilize the state’s electric grid, provide desalinated water to meet the state’s chronic water shortage, and provide carbon-free hydrogen fuel for transportation. Is. MIT News The group asked the report’s co-authors Jacopo Buongiorno, TEPCO Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering, and John Linhard, the Jamil Professor of Water and Food, to discuss the group’s findings.

Why: Your report suggests co-located a major desalination plant with the existing Diablo Canyon Power Plant. What would be the potential benefits from operating the desalination plant in conjunction with the power plant?

lienhard: The cost of desalinated water produced at Diablo Canyon will be lower than at a stand-alone plant because the cost of electricity will be significantly lower and you can take advantage of the existing infrastructure for seawater intake and saltwater outflow. Electricity will be affordable as the location takes advantage of Diablo Canyon’s unique ability to provide low-cost, zero-carbon baseload electricity.

Depending on the scale at which the desalination plant is built, you can have a very significant impact on the water scarcity of state and federal projects in the area. In fact, one of the numbers that came out of this study was that an intermediate-sized desalination plant there would produce more freshwater than the highest estimate of net yield from the proposed Delta Conveyance Project on the Sacramento River. You can get the amount of water at Diablo Canyon for less than half the investment cost, and without the associated impacts that come with the Delta Conveyance Project.

And here the envisaged technology for desalination, reverse osmosis, is available off the shelf. You can buy this tool today. In fact, it is already in use in California and thousands of other places around the world.

Why: You report discusses three potential products from the Diablo Canyon plant: desalinated water, electricity for the grid, and clean hydrogen. How well can the plant accommodate all those efforts, and are there advantages to combining them as opposed to doing one of them separately?

Good morning: California, like many other regions of the world, faces many challenges as it seeks to reduce carbon emissions on a large scale. First, the widespread deployment of intermittent power sources such as solar and wind creates too much variability on the grid that can be balanced by dispatchable firm power generators such as Diablo. Therefore, Diablo’s first mission is to continue to provide reliable, clean electricity to the grid.

The second challenge is prolonged drought and water scarcity for the state in general. And one way to address this is through water desalination that is co-located with the nuclear plant at the Diablo site, as John explained.

The third challenge relates to the decarbonisation of the transport sector. One possible approach is to replace conventional cars and trucks with vehicles powered by fuel cells that consume hydrogen. Hydrogen is to be produced from the primary energy source. Nuclear power can do this quite efficiently and in a carbon-free manner, through a process called electrolysis.

Our economic analysis found many of these products – electricity for the grid, hydrogen for the transportation sector, water for farmers or other local users – as well as the costs associated with deploying new facilities needed to produce desalinated water. Taking into account the expected revenue. and hydrogen. We found that, if Diablo’s operating license was extended through 2035, it would cut carbon emissions by an average of 7 million metric tons per year – a reduction of more than 11 percent from 2017 levels – and power system costs. Savings would be at the rate of $2.6 billion.

Delaying Diablo’s retirement further to 2045 would save 90,000 acres of land that would need to be dedicated to renewable energy generation to replace the facility’s capacity, and it would rate savings of up to $21 billion in electricity system costs. Will do

Finally, if Diablo were to operate as a polygeneration facility that simultaneously provides electricity, desalinated water and hydrogen, its value, in terms of volume per unit of electricity generated, could increase by as much as 50 percent.

Leonhard: Most of the desalination scenarios that we considered did not consume the full power output of that plant, which means that in most scenarios you would continue to generate electricity and do something with it, beyond just desalination. I think it’s also important to remember that this power plant produces 15 percent of California’s carbon-free electricity today and is responsible for 8 percent of the state’s total electricity generation. In other words, Diablo Canyon is a huge factor in the decarbonization of California. When or if this plant goes offline, reliance on natural gas for electricity generation is likely to increase in the near future, meaning increased California’s carbon emissions.

Why: This plant in particular has been highly controversial since its inception. What is your assessment of the safety of the plant after its scheduled shutdown, and how do you see this report as a contribution to decision making about that shutdown?

Good morning: The Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant has a very strong safety record. The potential safety concern for the Diablo is closely related to its many fault lines. Being located in California, the plant was initially designed to withstand large earthquakes. Following the Fukushima accident in 2011, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission reviewed the plant’s ability to withstand external events of exceptionally rare and severe magnitude (eg, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, tornadoes, wildfires, hurricanes). After nine years of assessment, the NRC concludes that “existing seismic potential or effective flood protection” [at Diablo Canyon] Unlimited recombination will address the hazards.” That is, Diablo was designed and built to withstand the rarest and strongest earthquakes that are physically possible at this site.

As an added level of safety, the plant has been retrofitted with specialized equipment and procedures to ensure reliable cooling of the reactor core and spent fuel pool under a hypothetical scenario that includes all design-based safety systems. has been disabled by a serious external incident. ,

Leonhard: With regard to the potential impact of this report, PG&E [the California utility] The decision to close the plant has already been made, and we and others hope that the decision will be reconsidered and reversed. We believe this report will give relevant stakeholders and policy makers a lot of information about the options and value involved in keeping the plant running, and how California can benefit from the clean water and clean electricity generated at Diablo Canyon. gives information. It’s not up to us to decide, of course – it’s a decision that the people of California must make. We can only provide information.

Why: What are the biggest challenges or obstacles to seeing these ideas implemented?

Leonhard: California has very strict environmental protection rules, and it’s good that they do. One area of ​​great concern for California is the health of the ocean and the protection of coastal ecosystems. As a result, to protect marine life, there are very strict regulations regarding the intake and outflow of both power plants and desalination plants. Our analysis shows that this combined plant can be implemented within the parameters set by the California Ocean Plan and can meet regulatory requirements.

We believe that a thorough analysis will be required before proceeding. You have to do a site study and really get into the water and see in detail what’s out there. But the initial analysis is positive. The second challenge is that discussions about nuclear power in California have generally not been very supportive, and similarly some groups in California oppose desalination. We expect both of those perspectives to be part of the conversation about whether or not to proceed with this project.

Why: How special is this analysis to the uniqueness of this place? Are there aspects of this that apply to other nuclear plants domestically or globally?

Leonhard: Hundreds of nuclear plants around the world are located along the coast, and many are in water-scarce areas. Although our analysis focused on Diablo Canyon, we believe that the general findings apply to many other seaside nuclear plants, so that this approach and these findings could potentially be applied to hundreds of sites worldwide.

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