Officials Demand Diablo Canyon Relicensing Be Suspended

Officials Demand Diablo Canyon

 Relicensing Be Suspended

Capps, Blakeslee Want Underwater Seismic Studies


Thursday, April 14, 2011  By Nick Welsh (Contact) For The Santa Barbara Independent
  
Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant

Records Project, www.californiacoastline.org   Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant


In response to growing concern sparked by Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster, PG&E — owner of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant outside Avila Beach — has become the political piñata of choice for elected officials throughout coastal California. This Tuesday, Representative Lois Capps testified before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee — chaired by California Democrat Barbara Boxer — demanding that PG&E’s application to relicense the Diablo Canyon plant be stopped until advanced underwater seismic studies are first completed to determine just how jittery the faults located within 300 yards of Diablo Canyon really are.

Just one day before the Senate hearing, PG&E announced it had asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to hold off making a final recommendation on relicensing the plant until such studies could be conducted. But that, said Capps and State Senator Sam Blakeslee — who also testified before Boxer’s committee — was not enough. Those studies need to be finished and peer reviewed by an independent panel of experts, Capps insisted, before the NRC even considers granting Diablo Canyon an extra 20 years of life. Given that the licenses for Diablo Canyon’s twin reactors don’t expire until 2023 and 2024, Capps argued, there’s no compelling need to initiate the relicensing now and no real harm in delaying. Capps stressed she was not demanding that Diablo Canyon be shut down but said that many urgent questions remain unanswered about the plant’s ability to withstand seismic ground acceleration, given the discovery of a new fault located 300 yards offshore from the plant just two years ago.

“The chance of such a bizarre concatenation of events occurring is extremely small. Not only is this conclusion well supported by the record evidence, it accords most eminently with notions of statistical probability,” it read. “Yet the unthinkable did happen in Japan — an earthquake, tsunami, and a nuclear accident sequence,” said Capps.

Capps said such studies should document how much energy the new fault — dubbed the Shoreline Fault — could reasonably release. “Can the plant, including the spent fuel pools, withstand an earthquake and a nuclear accident?” she asked. “How long would a plant be self-sustaining in the event of such damage? And is Diablo Canyon’s evacuation plan during an incident workable?” She derided the NRC’s insistence over the years that the chance of an earthquake and nuclear accident occurring at the plant simultaneously was too statistically remote to safeguard against. At one point, she quoted an NRC finding on emergency planning requirements for Diablo Canyon: “The chance of such a bizarre concatenation of events occurring is extremely small. Not only is this conclusion well supported by the record evidence, it accords most eminently with notions of statistical probability,” it read. “Yet the unthinkable did happen in Japan — an earthquake, tsunami, and a nuclear accident sequence,” said Capps.

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