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« Coalition to press its case against Palisades' RPV safety rollbacks at March 25th NRC licensing board hearing | Main | "Appeals Court will hear case on cover-up of Diablo Canyon quake risks" »
Sunday
Mar082015

"PG&E overlooked key seismic test at Diablo Canyon nuclear plant"

As reported by David R. Baker in the San Francisco Chronicle, "Pacific Gas and Electric Co. replaced $842 million of equipment at the heart of the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant without first making sure the new gear could pass a vital seismic safety test required in the facility’s license, The Chronicle has learned." (See full text of article here.)

The systems, structures and components in question include new lids, as well as replacement steam generators, for the twin unit nuclear power plant. The revelation comes in the aftermath of the permanent shutdown of California's other operating nuclear power plant, San Onofre Units 2 and 3, due to widepsread damage from defective replacement steam generators. That fiasco has turned into a multi-billion dollar boondoggle.

The Chronicle article quotes Dan Hirsch:

“I’m frightened that they’re making almost the exact same mistake we saw at Fukushima,” said Daniel Hirsch, a lecturer in nuclear policy at UC Santa Cruz...

“There was a too-cozy relationship between the nuclear industry and regulators in Japan, and that led to the fiction that it was very unlikely that you’d have an earthquake and a tsunami and a loss-of-coolant accident at the same time,” said Hirsch, who also serves as president of Committee to Bridge the Gap, a grassroots nuclear safety group.

The article also quotes Damon Moglen:

“If key safety equipment has been installed using the wrong data, (Diablo Canyon) needs to be shut down, and we need a public, transparent investigation into the adequacy of the license and the safety of this plant,” said Damon Moglen, senior adviser to the Friends of the Earth environmental group...

Friends of the Earth last year filed a lawsuit claiming the Nuclear Regulatory Commission illegally allowed PG&E to amend the seismic safety portion of its license without public hearings. The move came after one of the commission’s own former inspectors at Diablo Canyon argued that the plant was no longer operating within the terms of its license and should be shut down until PG&E demonstrated it could withstand earthquakes from several recently discovered fault lines, including the Shoreline. The commission rejected that idea.

“This is a regulator who’s not prepared to regulate and didn’t come down on a key safety issue,” Moglen said. “It’s a regulator who’s looking the other way.”

In related subject matter, the 1986 book The Whale and the Reactor: A Search for Limits in an Age of High Technology (University of Chicago Press), by Langdon Winner, warned about the risks presented by nuclear power to life on Earth. The author happened to see whales migrating past the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, just out to sea to the west. The realization struck him that this new technology, nuclear power, puts at risk even ancient forms of life, such as whale species tens of millions of years old.