Nukewatch Quarterly Summer 2015
In 2008, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) began replacing steam generators and reactor vessel heads at its Diablo Canyon station near San Luis Obispo, California. In 2011, they realized that proper testing for seismic activity hadn’t occurred. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission missed this oversight. While the company had run tests for seismic instability and loss-of-coolant accidents, they did not run them simultaneously—the deadly combination of failures that led to the Fukushima reactor disaster.
After the revelation PG&E began doing their own tests. Two weeks before the disclosure of the results, the NRC prepared talking points approving the reactor as earthquake-safe. The internal commission memo was discovered by environmental groups through public records act requests. Instead of issuing fines on PG&E, the NRC preemptively approved the utility’s unsubstantiated analysis of safety and permitted amendments to the seismic safety section of the operating license without public hearings, the latter of which prompted Friends of the Earth to file a lawsuit.
In March, the US Geological Survey reported a much higher probability of a major earthquake hitting California in the next 30 years than previously expected. Diablo Canyon is located between 1,000 feet and 45 miles from four different faults. If the hazards of long term safety of nuclear waste storage aren’t enough to close this reactor as opponents have demanded since its original construction, new knowledge about the geologic volatility should render this reactor closed and not a candidate for special favors by the government. —US Geological Survey, Mar. 10; San Francisco Chronicle, Mar. 12 & Apr. 15, 2015