Energy & Environment Track

Repurpose Diablo Canyon for Economical Water & Energy?
Mar 16 - Virtual Event

Virtual Fireside Chat Open to the Public

Can California Repurpose Diablo Canyon
to provide both Giga-scale Drinking Water and Clean Energy?


California is in the midst of the second multiyear drought in 8 years, with drinking water conservation calls ranging from 10% to 32% across the state.  California’s water supply depends on winter precipitation that is the most variable in the nation.  Further, the State’s continuing investment in water supply, storage and conveyance comes at significant cost to the ecosystem, with frequent tradeoffs and delays to address environmental concerns.

Thus, there is great interest in wholly new water sources such as recycled water and desalination; however, these are typically expensive as well as capital & energy intensive.   What if California could build a billion gallon per day desalination plant?

MIT faculty members John Lienhard, Jacopo Buongiorno, and John Parsons, working with the Stanford Precourt Energy Institute, have developed an innovative proposal to generate significant quantities of desalinated water as well as zero carbon electricity and green transportation fuel.  By repurposing the existing Diablo Canyon Nuclear facility, they found that the nuclear plant plus a new giga-scale desalination plant could simultaneously help to stabilize the State’s electric grid with carbon-free electricity and provide desalinated water to supplement the State’s chronic water shortages at a scale potentially comparable to the largest reservoir projects.

The proposal consists of three parts:

  • Build a large scale modular desalinated water facility, using existing RO technology, adjacent to Diablo Canyon that shares its large-scale water facilities and capitalizes on low-cost electricity from the nuclear plant,
  • Continue to use Diablo Canyon to provide dispatchable carbon-free power to the grid to complement the State’s large renewable electric supply, while simultaneously addressing environmental concerns regarding seawater intake and heat discharge,
  • Build a hydrogen fuel manufacturing facility adjacent to Diablo Canyon to generate green hydrogen fuel to further decarbonize the transportation industry in the State.

The professors will discuss the technical and economic feasibility of this design, how it can reduce carbon emissions vs. the current trajectory for how we balance renewable energy, and how it can provide new, economical drought-proof water to the State on a scale not considered possible heretofore.


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Event Closed

Date and Time

Wednesday, March 16, 2022
5:00 PM - 6:30 PM PT

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Virtual Event

Primary Contact

Serena Chung


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