Diablo Canyon

Shutting down Diablo Canyon

First Published by Friends of the Earth


Concerns over the proposed construction of nuclear reactors at Diablo Canyon were an impetus for David Brower to found Friends of Earth in 1969. Since then, more information about the seismic activity near the two aging reactors has made it increasingly clear that Diablo Canyon should never have been built on its current site. The tremendous and unnecessary risk these reactors pose to public health and the environment necessitates that they be shut down.

At the time of construction, our knowledge about earthquakes was relatively basic. Nonetheless, it was known that Diablo Canyon, the nuclear reactors operated by Pacific Gas & Electric, was at risk from two earthquake faults: the San Andreas, 45 miles inland and the Rinconada, 20 miles inland. Since then, as our understanding of earthquakes and ground motion has grown, it has become increasingly clear that Diablo Canyon is surrounded by faults capable of creating ground motion beyond that for which the reactors and their components were tested and licensed.

On August 25, 2014, Friends of the Earth made public an explosive document, a Differing Professional Opinion by Dr. Michael Peck, former senior resident inspector at Diablo Canyon for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. This document reveals that three of the nearby faults (Shoreline, Los Osos and San Luis Bay) are capable of generating earthquakes stronger than the reactors were designed to withstand. Dr. Peck’s dissent argues that Diablo Canyon is operating outside the conditions of its license and should be shut down until PG&E can prove that the reactors can withstand potential earthquakes on these faults.

Friends of the Earth strongly supports Dr. Peck’s analysis of the seismic risks around Diablo Canyon. We believe it is unconscionable that the NRC suppressed Dr. Peck’s dissent for almost a year. The NRC knows that Diablo Canyon’s two reactors are the most vulnerable to earthquakes in the United States, but the agency has failed to heed Dr. Peck’s repeated warnings.

A reactor accident at Diablo Canyon would immediately put tens, if not hundreds of thousands, of people in Central California at risk from radiation exposure. Should southerly winds prevail, a radioactive plume could threaten  millions of Southern Californian residents, from Santa Barbara south to Los Angeles and beyond. Radiation release into the Pacific Ocean could endanger precious marine and coastal resources and fragile habitats, as well.

Although an earthquake-fueled disaster poses the greatest risk to the plant, Diablo Canyon damages the environment of Central Coastal California each day. The plant draws in an estimated 2.5 billion gallons of water per day for cooling purposes and discharges that water back into the Pacific Ocean about 20 degrees hotter. Diablo Canyon annually draws into its antiquated cooling system more than a billion fish in early life stages; most die. In 2011, California initiated a new policy to end once-through cooling systems at coastal power plants. PG&E, however, is aggressively lobbying the state Water Resources Board to exempt Diablo Canyon in an attempt to avoid expensive cooling towers. But since Diablo Canyon accounts for about 80% of the total seawater sucked into California’s coastal plant cooling systems, exempting the reactors would effectively negate the state’s “Once Through Cooling” policy.

Friends of the Earth also urges the California Public Utilities Commission to investigate the high and uncompetitive cost of energy coming from Diablo Canyon. Ratepayers would be better served by power from cheaper, cleaner sources of renewable energy.

Diablo Canyon is a dangerous, destructive and expensive hangover from an outdated energy production process. It’s time to shut Diablo Canyon and replace it with clean, safe renewable energy and efficiency.
- See more at: http://www.foe.org/projects/climate-and-energy/nuclear-reactors#sthash.QoJYTYa5.dpuf



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