California Power Outages Happening as Predicted When Nuclear Reactors Were Shutdown

In 2018 and many other times, California was warned there would be power interruptions when nuclear reactors were shutdown.

California has been having power outages and rolling blackouts because of insufficient power this summer. There was increased demand for electricity for air conditioning as temperatures reached over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and as high as 120F. The shortfall was also due to calm winds which reduced the electricity from wind farms. The shortfall in electrical generation would have been met if the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station had been repaired and restarted for $75 million in 2012.

Failing to spend $75 million in 2012 is costing California billions in power outage costs. California is choosing to continue down the path of closing nuclear reactors and there are plans to reduce natural gas electrical generation. California wants to rely nearly completely on solar and wind and batteries. Having enough batteries for part of one day of power interruption will not be built until 2045. Solar and Wind can have months lower low power generation during winter months. Batteries and solar and wind alone would not be able to stabilize a power grid for normal seasonal power fluctuation over a regular year. All years are not regular. There can be years with even lower wind and sun for some months. A reliable power grid would need to look at patterns that occur once or occasionally every decade or century because the grid needs to work year after year for decades.

Solar and wind generation can go down for months and electrical demand can increase.

Here is a quote from the San Diego Union Tribune in 2018 when California voted to close the Diablo Canyon nuclear reactor in 2024:

Supporters of nuclear energy said closing Diablo Canyon will cause the state to use more natural gas — a fossil fuel — in order to replace the electricity generated by the plant.

“I’m sorely disappointed the CPUC has neglected the ratepayers and the environment,” said Gene Nelson, government liaison with Californians for Green Nuclear Power. “Solar and wind cannot be counted on …They’re subject to random interruptions.”

The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station plant was shut down in 2013 after there were problems with replacement steam generators. California chose not to spend $75 million to repair and restart the San Onofre nuclear reactor.

The average cost of residential electricity in California is about 19 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is almost 50% more than the US average of 13 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Large power outage costs can easily run into the billions of dollars. The Interruption Cost Estimate (ICE) Calculator is an electric reliability planning tool developed by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Nexant, Inc. This tool is designed for electric reliability planners at utilities, government organizations, and other entities that are interested in estimating interruption costs and/or the benefits associated with reliability improvements in the United States.

SOURCES- ICE Calculator, SCRP, San Diego Tribune
Written By Brian Wang,

91 thoughts on “California Power Outages Happening as Predicted When Nuclear Reactors Were Shutdown”

  1. The load shedding occurred because solar generation ceased, and did it when the system needed it most. Sure, it is a problem of insufficient reserves, which can be met in more than one way. The cheapest way to do that is to burn gas. But the needed reserves are only large because solar generation drops off the grid as you go into peak demand. It dependably fails every day before peak demand. It will continue to dependably fail every day before peak demand. The simple fact is that the output of either reactor at San Onofre exceeded the power deficit that lead to load shedding.

  2. The San Onofre plant was shut down by SCE based purely on economics. Like any business, they ran the numbers and concluded they were better off financially by shutting down the plant rather than paying the cost of repairs to make the plant operational. At the time, NG generated power had become very economical.

  3. "but chronically under-utilizes its solar resources"

    They are the #1 spot for solar in the USA, so kind of like saying that the Saudis are under utilizing their oil because they aren't selling all of it right now.

    While Solar in AZ is great you simply must realize that in AZ it is normal to run the air conditioning throughout the night because the temperature at 2am is usually in the mid 90s. AZ is so hot that solar can't meet its needs- they would need a hearty 10GWhr of batteries to power the AC through the evening.

  4. "You can, at best, only have the most efficient economy that the prejudices, customs and behaviour of your population will allow."

    True but when you expose people to the costs associated with their customs and behavior then you give them some motivation to reassess. The problem is that we aren't exposed to the monetary cost of our actions.

    Edit: for example we are talking about hiding the cost of the power grid by promoting its failure up the chain of bureaucracy by transforming the geographic monopoly of PG&E in to a State of California managed monopoly.

  5. "zero possibility of fission products contaminating the neighborhood"

    LOL. That's the problem right there. Sure the organic bananas from whole foods are radioactive and sure there's some fission products on somebody's shoes somewhere from a trip to New Mexico but by god "vee muuust haaaave zeeeeero"

    "Just put aside a % of the nuclear plant's yearly revenue to deal with those long term issues"

    Yeah literally every nuclear plant does that and it works out fine unless politicans make it known that restarting won't be an option and so you won't be able to collect the necessary money.

  6. Not specifically, because I didn't specifically mention 2019.

    The fact is, California has wildfires regularly… usually associated with the Santa Ana winds.

  7. Power distribution is a natural monopoly, and power generation can tend that way in many local areas, so it takes a highly tuned set of rules to allow functioning markets to work.

    The problem with highly tuned sets of rules controlling a big dollar market is that everyone wants to tweak the rules to suit themselves, from simple rent seeking through to near religious insistence that some forms of energy are morally superior to others.

    It's one of the situations where I'm reminded of Adam Smith's original comment (back in 1776) that you can't have the most efficient market economy. You can, at best, only have the most efficient economy that the prejudices, customs and behaviour of your population will allow.

  8. '.. indoor low voltage dc garden lights..' You growing dope Dan ? I thought your enthusiasm for my namesake was a bit starry-eyed. Hydrogen is the second worst way of storing bulk power, after stretched bungies.

  9. The International Atomic Energy Agency determined that evacuating most of the exclusion zone round Chernobyl was a mistake – just restricting milk and greens from the area till short term iodine 131 decayed, in about two months, would have prevented measurable effects on the population. Emissions from Fukushima were only about 10% of those round Chernobyl, and evacuation was even more ill-advised – moving ninety year olds out of rest homes in the middle of winter, over a worst-case outcome of one percent more likely cancer in the next twenty years. Shelter in place would have been far better.
    The real danger of nuclear is that, because of baseless fears, it won't get built. That will leave coal and gas to continue business as usual, poisoning people in the short term, and overheating the climate in the medium term.

  10. What you meant to say was, ' Managing a grid without nuclear is not a problem, it just takes more fossil fuels rather than less.' Which is a small part of why California is being gradually roasted.

  11. If you decommission the reactor after less than forty years, you need a lot higher percentage of the revenue to cover decommissioning than if it can run for eighty years ( as several other plants in the US fleet have already been licenced to do.)

  12. Operator acceptance testing didn't pick that up though? If it did and they signed off, then the operator was just stupid. If they didn't detect it during acceptance testing, then I suppose it's an issue of bathtub curve degradation and contract warranty language (in so much that that if it started to go bad a few months after start, what is the repair/replacement cost share)

  13. Yes, that goes along the vertical in the 2-D libertarian diamond chart. I like the chart because it saves the "right" and "left" as we now call them. "Up" is libertarian, "down" is authoritarian. "Center" is, well . . . But remember, don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. People are as crazy as they can possibly be. Otherwise, they are libertarian already.

  14. This appears to not actually be a power generation issue but a craptacular underdimensioned grid that can't handle hot weather problem. It still doesn't help that they shut down a nuclear reactor that is located in a very good place in the grid, that may be a contributing factor to overloading parts of the grid that would otherwise be OK.

  15. A lot of this stuff started happening when the Republicans in California decided to force utilities to sell off their power plants to make power generation more competitive. Did not work. There are physical constraint that makes the generation market noncompetitive and some of the rules did not make sense.

  16. no good reason

    Some want zero possibility of fission products contaminating the neighborhood, some want to avoid 10%. Isn't decommissioning costs a certainty? Just put aside a % of the nuclear plant's yearly revenue to deal with those long term issues, just like they did for coal plants and issues like their tailings & ash pile.

  17. There was a reset of trust in nuclear after Fukushima – both political and engineering claims. The USA recommended a 50 mile evacuation zone from Fukushima – and if you extrapolated that to San Onofre, 8.4 million people lived within 50 miles. An impossibly large and populated evacuation zone. And San Onofre was in a mega-earthquake and potential tsunami prone region. The big, important, and overlooked differences were it was on a over 100 foot bluff, overseen by a very strict NRC, and operating reactors were Gen II, not Gen I.
    Bad timing and bad engineering killed it. The same year as Fukushima (2011) they totally stuffed the $671 million steam generator replacement. I don't expect somebody who both votes and lives within 50 miles of San Onofre to trust the engineering claims with regards to safety in 2011.
    There's good stuff in this wikipedia entry
    Try and read it from the point of view of a nearby resident and hopefully you can understand why there would be a lack of trust in both politicians and engineering safety claims when it comes to nuclear across the world after Japan's screwups.
    I agree with you with regards to Gen II nuclear safety; I wouldn't have shut it down. Japan screwed up the future of nuclear for the entire world – but I can also respect the lack of trust even an informed person would have living within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant in a seismically active region.

  18. Steam generators couldn't handle the rate of water flow, they were rubbing against each other. Rubbing made holes, leaked primary circuit water in to the steam generator circuit, immediately triggered alarms and shut down the plant. MHI didn't do proper simulations, but operators signed off on the installation and accepted what MHI provided. In the end politicians made it clear that wherever fault lay the plant would not be allowed back on because of anti-nuke politics.

    So plant is offline, my electricity bill went up 10%, and now we have to figure out how to pay for decommissioning when we shut things down early for no good reason.

  19. Meanwhile, California's neighbor, Arizona, has the largest nuclear plant in the western US, happy to sell to CA at a pretty penny, but chronically under-utilizes its solar resources. at least they shutdown the last coal power plant in the state. seems like we just can't seem to get a right out of so many wrongs.

  20. This is worth repeating. The load shedding started at 6:30pm, so the nuclear vs. solar/wind argument is just an opportunistic strawman. The problem was lack of reserves. You'd need to make the case that additional reserve would have been cheaper with San Onofre than alternatives. An entirely different question/issue.

    CAISO raised the alarm about insufficient reserves, they unfortunately did it (and extra reserves were voted in) about a year too late to make a difference for 2020.

  21. Methanol microgids are the future for California– and probably the world. 

    There are already significant fluctuations in power supply in California from hydroelectric, wind, and solar facilities. California's long distance power lines also cross forested areas that are prone to fires (sometimes caused by the power lines themselves). And, of course, sometimes the power companies shut of power to lines that cross into forest during windy days in order to prevent fires.

    Methanol microgrids are the fastest and cheapest solution to this problem. 

    Natural gas power plants can be cheaply modified to use methanol. And methanol produces electricity more efficiently than natural gas. And, unlike natural gas, methanol can be conveniently stored practically anywhere for peak load, base load, and emergency power. Methanol power plants derived from natural gas power plants could be quickly deployed to accommodate the power needs of practically any community– no matter how large or how small.

    Methanol can be produced from natural gas or from nuclear and renewable energy resources (wind, solar, hydroelectric, urban and agricultural waste).

  22. The manufacturer is responsible for providing new steam generators, but not responsible for the installation cost. That is the limit of the manufacturers liability, as stipulated in the contract.

  23. You mean, those nuclear powerplants with 60s tech? One hit by a megatsunami which only damaged it's ACTIVE cooling systems because of design decisions that were badly made AND warned repeatedly against?

    And Chernobyl is even worse. They did everything they could in order to explode the reactor. The workers and director were chosen based on politics, not knowledge of the field.

  24. "1) Wild fires are an annual occurrence in large swathes of California, and somehow the state did fine in the past."

    Regular wild fires are a manageable problem. You can deal with them by building codes.

    The real problem is irregular wild fires caused by a combination of fire suppression AND prohibiting removal of fuel on the ground. You can suppress fires and remove fuel, or you can let the fires happen, they'll remove the fuel themselves, but California has chosen the worst of both worlds, guaranteeing that, when the fires happen, they'll be horrific.

  25. Electricity isn't a genuine free market, though. Or else when the state said to shut the nukes down, the utilities could have told them to stuff it.

  26. You are misunderstanding the statement. It doesn't mean "go down" as in disappearing, but "go down" as being reduced. And clearly we see from the provided graph that solar and wind (aggregate, presumably) goes down from ~6000 MWh (May) to ~500 MHh (December).

  27. Weather systems are around a thousand miles across, and night is twelve thousand miles across. So chances are if you want power and your solar panels and wind turbine aren't giving you any, your neighbour 25 miles away will be in the same boat. Or if he has some, he'll want it himself, since his needs are likely to be synchronous with yours. Solar is supposed to be the cheapest source of power- as long as it's in a desert and you don't care when and how much you get. On a house roof, it's the most expensive – even before you add batteries. If they want to cross an ocean, most people don't build a boat and sail over, they pay someone to get them across. Much quicker, cheaper, and safer. And the professionals running the working ships don't use 'free' wind to get there – they use fuel. Problem – a tonne of fuel oil makes four tonnes of carbon dioxide. Seven billion people using ~ three cubic miles of oil a year make too much carbon dioxide. Solution – find a fuel that doesn't make CO2. Uranium doesn't. Half a gram of uranium has about the energy of a tonne of oil.

  28. You don't even know what you said.
    " Wild fires are an annual occurrence in large swathes of California, and somehow the state did fine in the past."

  29. I wish solar would go down for months, instead what we got is a huge heat wave driving up massive demand to power air conditioning.

  30. Only if you use a specialized definition of the word "democracy" that excludes the meaning currently used for it in modern English.

  31. Yup nukes in Fascist "merchant" markets have trouble competing with 100% subsidized wind that gets pride of place down to negative 10 cents a kWh with state REC's, and gas that can shut down at will but still collect a 100% subsidized 85% of their revenue as capacity payments.

    Nukes are good in regulated utilities.

  32. I am quite interested in small scale H systems, esp for remote set up of indoor low voltage dc garden lights and fuel for heat, cooking and driving, plus some regular electricity as needed. And, rockets.

  33. The importance of this is that Space Solar has a project folder in the gov. This goes back to National Security Space Office study of small sats to support desert bases, instead of trucking in diesel thru enemy territory. They could afford it! Putting cells on the Moon is mentioned in the appendix, BTW. You are welcome!

  34. That is fairly recent, after the earthquaked nukes. Another proposal by Shimizu was circumlunar cells with a cable, to a central radar. Not as good as Criswell LSP, BTW.

  35. You are wise to use existing structures for solar panels, esp if they double as shingles. But building solar farms on Earth is far worse from the very perspective you mention than equal output collectors in Space, and there, you get the advantages of power beaming. We need 20-200 TWe BTW. Those who build their own rectennae, requiring a bunch of poles in the ground mostly, will thus own over 50% of their power system. But the winners will be the ones who escape as they build the stuff in Space.

  36. It's not an irrational fear. No private insurance company will insure a nuclear power plant. Because the risk is too high if something goes wrong. Look at Chernoble or Fukushima.

  37. Which I would humbly offer is being undermined by a judicial branch that has usurped the legislative powers of Congress and mangled the constitution by creating new powers and laws that were never intended.

  38. A lot of nuclear plants cant survive without state support, even plants built in the good/bad old days. If existing nuclear is uneconomical, it doesn't bode well for new plants.

  39. Tesla had a good start with their Powerwall. It's a battery backup system for a home, that supposed to blend into the exterior. The cool thing about the Powerwall is that it accept power from solar panels as well.

    My problem with the Powerwall, as is my problem with all the different solar and wind solutions… They're too darned proprietary. Everyone has their own system, their own connectors and other hardware.

    I also kind of have issues with wind and solar on a centralized level. In my opinion, is less efficient that has to do with weather and location. When the sky is cloudy or the wind isn't blowing at a solar or wind farm, that affects the entire farm, and then that affects everyone on the grid.

    Now If solar and wind, on the other hand, is pushed out to the roofs of small business, homes or multi-family units, the load is spread out geographically in a way that helps fight issues of weather, because while homes connected to the grid in one location aren't producing power, homes 25 miles away might be experiencing more favorable conditions.

  40. You do know, don't you, that when you compare sources of electrical power by deaths per megawatt-hour, nuclear has the lowest number of

    deaths per megawatt-hour?

    You do know, don't you, the dangers of nuclear has nothing to do with dead bodies. People are killed all the time, other people's lives are cheap, you send your thoughts and prayers and life and society goes on. Irradiate 30km of any productive area/metropolis, society in those areas stops for +100 years; that would be a real tragedy.

  41. I never really understood the steam generator fiasco. I mean, sure, critics used the downtime as an excuse to kill off the plant, but that was a manufacturing defect right? That's 100% on the maker to fix, for free. Why would California need to shell out $75 million for that? Intermediate inspection costs might be borne on the operator, but even the re-shutdown and restart costs should be on the maker.

  42. I reprinted an O'Neill ad years ago, and on the back put a quote from the very, something like "we look forward to a future where the free choices of individuals rather than the dictates of gov. . ." edit: may be from the SSI charter itself.

  43. Up until now, I haven't been an O'Neill fan, but thinking about it the way you just described definitely changes my perspective.

  44. I never made a single assertion about the 2019 blackouts… but nice attempt at a diversion… We're talking about 2020.

  45. You are not informed at all about 2019 blackouts, are you? I didn't find information about the fires this year but soon it will come out. That particular plant was old it has nothing to do with which energy source Historically came out first.
    Here is an article on the matter that predate the fires.

    “In reality, several fossil-gas plants unexpectedly went offline when the heat wave struck, resulting in less available power. Gas plants can struggle to operate in the heat. In an ironic twist, burning fossil fuels will become less reliable in our hotter world.

  46. Well, I've always believed that the best role for solar and wind are single-family and multi-family homes.

    To make it possible, consumers need a standardized and affordable power conditioning and battery storage system that accepts multiple inputs from any power source, and it should be about the size of a water heater or smaller.

    Standardizing will make these systems not that different from the personal computer over the past few decades. Like the PC, we want power conditioning and storage system to use common hardware and software, freely available to anyone, or with a reasonable charge.

    In the end, what people really need is the ability to start small and expand over time. We want to encourage an aftermarket industry of entrepreneurs who develop new power generation or storage systems the consumer can buy and easily add to the power system of their home or business.

    Most of all, what we really want is to give people a backup to the power grid, in case of some kind of disaster.

  47. You wrote: "It's their choice to not risk nuclear, dont they have that right?"

    You do know, don't you, that when you compare sources of electrical power by deaths per megawatt-hour, nuclear has the lowest number of deaths per megawatt-hour?

    So if the choice to eliminate the nuclear power plants was justified on the basis of safety, it seems that those making the decisions were misinformed.

    If, as I suspect, the decision was made because of the general public's irrational fear of anything with the word "nuclear" in it, the problem is that the greenies have brainwashed the general public for decades, and that probably will take many years to correct.

  48. Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.
    H. L. Mencken

  49. Just thinking about living in one of thousands of owned, created, independent rotating habitats makes things seem better.

  50. Please note that both long distance grid maintenance problems and solar and wind intermittency, also load variability, would be solved with Earth to Earth power beaming, requiring little launch. Perhaps Gov. Moonbeam was on to something!

  51. I agree, as a market oriented libertarian. E=mc^2 also. He was talking about *compared to* O'Neill Space. Stagnation on Earth v going to Space, with (I suspect!) a new Space Solar announcement from BO.

  52. ALEXA, what happens when MORONS think they understand how the power grid works?

    ALEXA….ALEXA….Oh Yeah, Right….There's NO POWER !

  53. Might want to see lead article in current Space Review. "Solar power satellites could have driven space development," for example. As O'Neill proposed.

  54. I had the wrong page numbers, off by one, corrected now. The Earth to Earth is on page 13, the one I left out. Sorry! It requires little launch, and yet prepares for any form of Space Solar, L5, LSP or GEO. Start now!

  55. Agree, but I would also add that it's complicated option which requires a huge space based infrastructure, govt oversight and regulation, and billions of dollars to develop and field. Couldn't I just put some solar panels on my roof and save myself from the bureaucracy and politicians and their endless political machinations, incompetence, and short sighted idiocy?

  56. Good question. I remember back in the 1970s that it was frequently said we we're going to run out of natural resources. Oil was the one most mentioned. I dimly recall there being some famous bet about the amount of proven reserves of certain types of minerals and oil. Last I heard those numbers keep going up. Of course, power generation capability isn't the same thing, but the concept is sort of the same in that they are both commodities. "We're going to run out of x" says the naysayers, but we never do. In market based systems, if there is a demand for something there usually is someone willing and able to supply it.

  57. Power beaming from LEO or the moon is a good question to consider, but there are very valid reasons why it hasn't been done, so it won't go beyond the consideration-stage until there's some kind of breakthrough technology.

    That's the case with a lot of things.

  58. Don't waste you're time. Dan's a good guy, but he has a single minded obsession with O'Neill cylinders and power beaming. He doesn't care if the economics don't work. It reminds me a little of people who think that communism is a feasible economic system. They ignore the fact that it's been tried multiple times, yet never worked. In Dan's defense, no one's tried to build the cylinder or do beaming, but then again that's because no one can make a business case to do either.

  59. It's like this, if the profit potential is there, someone will do it… If no one's doing it, run the numbers, and I bet you'll find it's just not profitable yet.

    We can probably take a pretty darned good stab-in-the-dark at why power beaming from the moon hasn't been done, and it will come back to one fact… It costs too much to launch a payload into orbit. The construction of power beaming facilities will require possibly hundreds of launches to build, and even more to maintain.

    But Elon's got your back, dude.

  60. Wow… from now on I'll look at everything you write colored through the lens of this particular comment of yours.

    1) Wild fires are an annual occurrence in large swathes of California, and somehow the state did fine in the past.

    2) While weather won't interfere for months on end, the total number of days of interferences annually could equate in months of interference, and weather absolutely does play a significant role in the unreliability of wind and solar.

    3) Grid maintenance is a never ending process, because wires stretch and break, transformers fail, and poles eventually succumb to the elements. If that work's not been done, that's negligence not a nebulous call for "grid upgrades."

    4) Since both wind and solar actually predate nuclear fission power, it's those "old and outdated nuclear plants" that are the high-tech-zero-carbon-emission-power-source-of-the-future humanity can use today.

  61. "The immediate reason for the black-outs was the failure of a 500-megawatt power plant and an out-of-service 750-megawatt unit not being available. –Forbes" I have yet to see a proper postmortem and yet the usual suspects knows what caused it, closing that nuclear plant and having wind & solar on the books. Why wait for any supporting evidence.

    It was evening so it wasn't solar, and remember the ISO duck "problem" during the day. Ca should have enough supplies for the evenings even if there is zero wind in the evening.

    All they did was swap one type of risk for another that can be mitigated.
    They swap power plant types, replaced 2710MW nuclear with +4000MW new NatGas since 2012. If they hadn't made that swap and those 2 plants still failed, there wouldn't still be a problem?

    It's their choice to not risk nuclear, dont they have that right?

    If the USA will inexorably fail due to a lack of abundant nuclear, you should prepare yourself for the end. Nuclear is thoroughly uneconomical.

    Managing a grid without nuclear is not a problem, it just takes more competence rather than less.

  62. Willing ignorance and magical thinking from the Greenie cabal.

    Expecting for the problems to go away if you close your eyes and wish them away hard enough.

  63. "Solar and wind generation can go down for months and electrical demand can increase."

    Nope. Solar and Wind don't go down for months. The blackouts are due to the fires. The grids needs to be upgraded. Enough with this Chinese style manipulative propaganda to restore old and outdated nuclear plants.

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