H-DIABLO CANYON

Nov 4, 2013 8:35 PM by Cameron Polom, KSBY News

New cooling system at Diablo could mean rate increases for customers

State Water Resource Control Board officials say Diablo Canyon's cooling systems are endangering underwater ecosystems around the plant. Now, they're looking to change that with policies that could leave you on the hook for a major renovation.

According to state biologists, more than 1.5 billion fish larvae are sucked into the intake system at Diablo Canyon every year, most of which do not survive.

"At Diablo Canyon in our cooling systems, we pull sea water from the ocean to essentially condense steam," said Blair Jones of PG&E.

Diablo uses 1.4 million gallons of sea water per second for a whopping 2.4 billion gallons per day. That water is turned into steam, powering massive turbines to generate electricity.

However, according state biologists, along with sea water, fish larvae and other critters are sucked in as well. They added when the water spits back into the Pacific, it's about 18 degrees warmer, and that temperature change has a drastic impact on underwater habitats.

"The focus of the policy is on reducing impacts to things like fish larvae by 93 percent," said Jones.

To assist in finding a viable solution, PG&E enlisted engineering firm Bechtel. In a report they list three alternatives for state officials to consider.

One would include building cooling towers next to the plant with a cost of around $12 billion.

"We've looked at that alternative and from our review that does not appear to be a reasonably feasible alternative," said Jones.

Jones says Bechtel also looked into adding additional screening at intake locations as well as moving intake pipes farther off shore.

The costs of those alternatives are in the several hundred-million dollar range.

Officials are also considering something San Onofre Power Plant did before it closed which was to introduce more larvae to the affected areas, essentially offsetting the losses of fish life.

Either way, whatever the cost to doing this may be, which is not exactly known that this time, will be passed along to PG&E customers through rate increases.

According to Diablo officials, the State Water Resource Control Board is set to decide which avenue the plant will take by this time next year.

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