Diablo Nuclear Plant: Disaster Waiting to Happen?

April 7, 2011

OPINION By Jack McCurdy

Approximately 27,000 people are either dead or missing as a result of the earthquake off Japan on March 11 and the resulting tsunami and destruction of nuclear plants there. Does that figure sound familiar?

Baywood-Los Osos and Morro Bay combined have a population of about 25,000.

That’s the kind of connection people here may be starting to think about in the aftermath of the Japanese catastrophe—and the fact that the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant is so close by.

For sure, they are starting to wonder about living near a nuclear plant, and, more significantly, whether it has to be. Evidence shows it doesn’t, but who was pondering closing Diablo until now?

Dave Congalton, the local radio talk show host, may have been the first one to bring up the Diablo nightmare publicly. On his March 22 show, he took the initiative to say, “I live in Nipomo and as I was driving up 101 today, I was imagining, as I was hearing reports from Japan, what could happen on the Central Coast and when I did that, it was mind-numbing.”

Congalton then asked on the air, “If you think the risks are high (being close to the Diablo plant), why don’t you leave? Why do you stay?” At the time, he seemed to be asking his listening audience. But in reviewing the archived podcast of the show, it’s possible he may have been asking himself, too.

Apparently to provide some context for considering the kind of company that owns and operates Diablo, he listed the troubles that PG&E had been through over the past year:

(1) PG&E’s soundly defeated Prop. 16 on the June primary ballot last year that would have required local governments to win approval from two-thirds of voters in an election before they could set up any new public power network,

(2) the massive natural gas explosion last September in a PG&E line in San Bruno, just south of San Francisco, that destroyed a neighborhood and killed eight people, destroyed 38 homes, and left many more people injured and psychologically damaged and

(3) the mounting opposition in the county and statewide to PG&E’s Smart Meters because of their reported and otherwise potential health effects.

David Weisman, outreach consultant for the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility (A4NR), has called the PG&E setbacks “three strikes and you’re out.” The Alliance and Mothers for Peace have been fighting PG&E’s attempt to have the operating licenses for its two nuclear units at Diablo extended  another 20 years through 2044 and 2045 until thorough seismic studies on nearby earthquake faults—studies which PG&E wants to charge ratepayers $85 million for—are completed. In the aftermath of the Japanese disasters, support for blocking the extension of those licenses is mounting sharply, thanks in large part to the two organizations’ efforts.

The county Board of Supervisors last Tuesday agreed to consider opposing extension of the Diablo licenses until the seismic studies are completed. It will go on a Board agenda in the near future. Approximately 35 people packed the Board chambers to urge that supervisors oppose the license extension.

But what people like Congalton and others are starting to think about is not whether Diablo’s licenses for the two nuclear units should be allowed to expire in 2024 and 2025, rather than extend them for 20 years. It’s about now—whether they should operate any more at all. That is brand new, thanks to what has happened in Japan.

The Diablo plant sits almost on top of the Hosgri Fault, which reportedly has the same dangerous characteristics as the fault outside of Sendai, Japan. And geologists just discovered another fault running 300 yards from the Diablo plant gates.

“Any corporation can make a mistake,” Congalton added, “and the more people who work for them, the higher the likelihood there is going to be some kind of mistake.” This is reality, even though PG&E, the National Regulatory Commission (NRC) and California regulatory agencies may do everything within their powers to attain the highest degree of safety possible—theoretically, at least.

What many, if not most, of Diablo’s thousands of nearby neighbors don’t seem to understand is that there can be no assurance of safety from an earthquake, a tsunami (even though Diablo is 85 feet above sea level), a terrorist attack and now conceivably with climate change (as evidenced by  rising sea levels), possible lightning strikes. The risks are almost endless.

The best available and emerging technology can significantly increase safety and minimize the risks of an accident, a fire, an explosion, a release of  radioactivity, or an operational error—like the recently-discovered failure by operators at Diablo to realize that a system to pump water into one of the  reactors during an emergency had not been working—for 18 months. The incident is being called a “near miss” by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

As experts outside the nuclear industry and government emphasize, there is no way to prevent what could mushroom into another Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, or Japanese disaster.

“A lot of little things happen (at nuclear plants) that can lead to big things happening,” said Stephanie Cooke, author of “In Mortal Hands: A Cautionary History of the Nuclear Age,” in a radio interview recently. “We don’t really know how that happens.” Ms. Cooke has covered the nuclear industry for thirty years.

“There have been many accidents (at nuclear plants),” she said. “but they are hard to find out about. We don’t hear about them. They are reported to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), but it is hard to get access to information from it. I talked to a former NRC official who said he was very surprised how hard it is to find information on its site. A lot of this stuff is written in very complicated language that is hard to understand.

“Maybe it is the media’s fault for not following all this close enough, but basically people don’t know about accidents until there is an explosion or (radioactivity) release into the air.” (The Union of Concerned Scientists has a recent report on nuclear plant safety.) So people are uninformed about what goes on in nuclear plants here and abroad, which may go a long way in producing the willingness to accept industry and government contentions that they are safe. And that there are safe levels of exposure to radiation.

“But the National Academies’ National Research Council states that a preponderance of scientific evidence shows that even low doses of ionizing radiation are likely to pose some risk of adverse health effects. “

“The scientific research base shows that there is no threshold of exposure below which low levels of ionizing radiation can be demonstrated to be harmless or beneficial,” said the Council’s study committee chair Richard R. Monson, associate dean for professional education and professor of epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health.

But the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency continues to assure that “environmental radiation” remains below any “level of concern” in California (although the Central Coast was not included in that monitoring report). Such reassurances also are being issued by other authorities.

But at least people are willing to admit that they are not ready for a nuclear incident—CNN reported on March 25 that a poll it conducted showed most Americans who live within 50 miles of a nuclear plant aren’t prepared for a nuclear emergency. But they don’t think that police, hospitals, and other emergency services in their communities are either. (See Political Ticker. The site contains a link to a map that can show how close your home or business is to a nuclear plant.)

The county says there are about 143,000 people living in what it calls Protective Action Zones covering areas for evacuation in case of a Diablo incident requiring flight. It says another estimated 30,000 to 35,000 come to those areas to work or visit regularly. Those areas roughly cover Cayucos to the north, east through Cal Poly and San Luis Obispo to Orcutt Road and south to the Willow Road area at Nipomo.

However, there are ways to be better prepared. The state has a site that lists “10 Ways YOU Can be Disaster Prepared” for disasters of all kinds. And more directly relevant to Diablo, the county has an Office of Emergency Services, as well as a map of Emergency Planning Zones that shows escape routes from all areas surrounding Diablo.

The map and other facts are contained in the “2011 Important Emergency Information” booklet, which also has information about potassium iodide for use in case radiation levels reach a point that its ingestion is advised by the county health officer. All of this is also in local phone books.

Given the endemic uncertainty over what could happen at any nuclear plant, the question becomes: should, would and could Diablo Canyon be closed? Should it be closed if it were practical—primarily, if the energy it produces could be replaced? Would the public and their elected representatives support closing it? And, finally, could it be closed—is there a regulatory, legal or political means to do so?

To address the “would, should, could” question set, it seems the only way would be for area residents to get some answers on their own. Therefore, an effort is underway to organize one or more workshops for the purpose of developing the information needed to answer those questions—and enable people to decide on their own, independently and with self-interest as the guide. And determine whether there is urgency that needs to be recognized and faced based on the judgment of the stakeholders—the residents.

Although rarely reported by the media, renewable energy, such as solar and wind, represent viable alternatives to nuclear plants, especially here in California, which is leading the nation in the development of renewables. And then there is conservation, which means everyone using less electricity, but a topic that is almost never discussed as an alternative means to reduce reliance of fossil fuels and nuclear.

There are 104 nuclear reactors in the United States that produce about 20 percent of the nation’s energy and five new ones are under consideration. The Diablo and San Onofre plants generate about 15 percent of California’s electricity. How did all these plants get built if their risks and dangers are now recognized? Mothers for Peace and many others saw those risks and fought the construction of the Diablo plant, the first unit of which opened in 1985.

Cooke believes nuclear energy has become part of American culture over the past half century due to this overriding equation: technology = progress=prosperity. The tendency was to “ignore the pitfalls. How to survive and where to put the (nuclear) waste? We’ll figure that out as we go along.”

All nuclear waste—the media often call it “spent fuel” as a more benign term—must be stored on each plant’s site. Diablo has on its site 2642 assemblies (bundles) of spent fuel and 1136 metric tons of uranium, the A4NR says based on state data obtained from PG&E. If the plant operates through 2025, 1168 more assemblies and 717 more metric tons of uranium will be added, and if its license is renewed through 2045, another 2112 assemblies and 908 metric tons of uranium will be added.

Such waste is probably the least acknowledged dangerous aspect of a nuclear plant. “U.S. nuclear power plants that store thousands of metric tons of spent atomic fuel pose risks of a crisis like the one unfolding in Japan, where crews are battling to prevent a meltdown of stored fuel, nuclear safety experts said,” Bloomberg News reported.

It just keeps piling up at plants. There is no prospect for storing it at some central site within the U.S. because no state would take it. So the risk just builds and builds with no end in sight. And it is vulnerable to dangers from loss of cooling water and terrorist attacks.

Another aspect of radiation that is virtually never mentioned is the radioactive waste left behind when uranium in mined. Little, if any, uranium is mined in or near California, but it doesn’t have to be in order to feel the effects. When uranium is extracted from the ground, great amounts of rock come with it, and then it is crushed, and finely-pulverized material is left behind, much like flour, according to Dr. Gordon Edwards, president of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility. A great deal of uranium is mined in Canada.

“These tailings are left on the surface of the earth, they are blown by the wind, they are washed by the rain into the water systems, and they inevitably spread,” he said in a 1992 speech, for undetermined distances, polluting water, exposing people to radiation and resulting in “mental retardation in children who were irradiated while still in the womb.” And “the effective half-life of this radioactivity is 80,000 years,” he added.

Renewables are a clean, viable alternative to all this and already on the horizon. The question is: how close? Or could they be brought closer with accelerated prioritizing by the state? The utilities, like PG&E, themselves are developing significant renewable portfolios.

California has a goal of achieving 20 percent energy generation in the state from renewables by 2012 and 33% by 2020. Some 653 megawatts (MW) of new renewables came on line in 2010, almost double the amount of new renewables in 2009,  a California Public Utilities report in December said most of it was produced from hydroelectric and wind from a big new wind farm in Tehachapi.

“To date, 1,702 MW of new renewable capacity has achieved commercial operation” since 2003. The new renewable capacity consisted of solar panels, biomass, small hydroelectric, biogas and wind. The report focused on renewables being developed by the state’s three utilities, PG&E, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric.

It said the renewables program has contracts that would meet the 33 percent goal by 2020 but cautioned that some contracts could fail to produce their commitments.

The state also is three years into its 10-year California Solar Initiative (CSI) with 79,128 solar projects underway, which it says leads the nation. A joint effort of the California Energy Commission and the California Public Utilities Commission, the goal is to encourage the installation of 3,000 MW of solar energy systems on homes and businesses by the end of 2016. Another goal is to install 585 million therms of gas-displacing solar hot water systems by the end of 2017.

In the first three years of the CSI’s Go Solar program, the state is 42% of the way towards its general market program goal in the territories of the investor-owned utilities. This figure includes both projects already installed and those currently holding reservations for incentives and in the process of being installed.

California has over 600 MW of solar connected to the electric grid at nearly 65,000 customer sites. Of the 598 MW of capacity installed in investor-owned utility territories, 342 MW were installed under the CSI Program at 31,000 sites, as well as 256 MW installed through other programs.

However, it is not clear from state reports the extent to which such programs can be relied upon to replace nuclear and fossil-fuel energy or whether renewables are seen as sources to meet the growing energy needs of California. A reassessment of the overall purpose and potential would seem to be in order in light of the questions being raised about the wisdom of continuing to rely on nuclear energy.

The state has a Department of Conservation under the Natural Resources Agency, whose new director is John Laird, the Democratic candidate for state Senate from this area in last August’s special election. But its mission is to provide service and information that promote environmental health, economic vitality, informed land-use decisions and sound management of our state’s natural resources. It makes no mention of encouraging or suggesting ways for the public to conserve energy through their own actions and in their own dwellings.

But there are private efforts being made. EcoMall, the website of Ecology America, Inc., advocates reducing your footprint on the planet by purchasing products and services that don’t harm the environment and lists a wide array of products and the businesses that sell them. But it also recommends “20 Things You Can Do To Conserve Energy,” including using energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs, “reduce, reuse, recycle” and even “keep track of the environmental voting records of candidates for office. Stay abreast of environmental issues on both local and national levels, and write or call your elected officials to express your concerns about energy efficiency and global warming.”

Another one lists many ways to use less electricity and also warns about “Energy Vampires,” the electrical products that keep using electricity even when turned off.

Whether state legislators are aware of the extent to which conservation as a policy initiative is being ignored by the state is not known. One amateur conservationist, who has his energy bills down to miniscule levels, speculated that conservation practiced by a large number of Californians could put Diablo out of business in no time. Perhaps someone ought to find out if he is right.

Jack McCurdy is a former reporter for the Los Angeles Times who now lives in Morro Bay and reports for the  Slo Coast Journal.



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Beneficial Radiation? Has the US government once again pulled the wool over our eyes by spreading FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Deception)? I present the following for your analysis:

As The New York Times science section reported in 2001, an increasing number of scientists believe that at some level — much higher than the minimums set by the U.S. government — radiation is good for you. “They theorize,” the Times said, that “these doses protect against cancer by activating cells’ natural defense mechanisms.”

Among the studies mentioned by the Times was one in Canada finding that tuberculosis patients subjected to multiple chest X-rays had much lower rates of breast cancer than the general population.

A $10 million Department of Energy study from 1991 examined 10 years of epidemiological research by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health on 700,000 shipyard workers, some of whom had been exposed to 10 times more radiation than the others from their work on the ships’ nuclear reactors. The workers exposed to excess radiation had a 24 percent lower death rate and a 25 percent lower cancer mortality than the non-irradiated workers.

In 1983, a series of apartment buildings in Taiwan were accidentally constructed with massive amounts of cobalt 60, a radioactive substance. After 16 years, the buildings’ 10,000 occupants developed only five cases of cancer. The cancer rate for the same age group in the general Taiwanese population over that time period predicted 170 cancers.

The people in those buildings had been exposed to radiation nearly five times the maximum “safe” level according to the U.S. government. But they ended up with a cancer rate 96 percent lower than the general population.

Bernard L. Cohen, a physics professor at the University of Pittsburgh, compared radon exposure and lung cancer rates in 1,729 counties covering 90 percent of the U.S. population. His study in the 1990s found far fewer cases of lung cancer in those counties with the highest amounts of radon — a correlation that could not be explained by smoking rates.

Tom Bethell, author of the The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science has been writing for years about the beneficial effects of some radiation, or “hormesis.” A few years ago, he reported on a group of scientists who concluded their conference on hormesis at the University of Massachusetts by repairing to a spa in Boulder, Mont., specifically in order to expose themselves to excess radiation.

At the Free Enterprise Radon Health Mine in Boulder, people pay $5 to descend 85 feet into an old mining pit to be irradiated with more than 400 times the EPA-recommended level of radon. In the summer, 50 people a day visit the mine hoping for relief from chronic pain and autoimmune disorders.

New York Times?

US Dept. of Energy?

Johns Hopkins School of Public Health?

A physics professor at the University of Pittsburgh?

These are not lightweight sources, but some will dismiss them solely because of the person who condensed this information into a single article that I shamelessly copied from: http://www.anncoulter.com/cgi-local/article.cgi?article=414

Looks like a lot of anti-nuclear-at-all-costs people have bought in to government sponsored FUD about safe levels. Kinda makes me wonder why the government wouldn’t want us to know about ways of significantly reducing cancer rates???

Let the flames begin.

Ann Coulter?? as a reliable source?? really?? she still believes tetra ethyl lead in the gasoline is a good idea. let some one who knows tell us the truth,Ann Coulter?? please.

Frank J. Parnell

Are you ignorant or completely disingenuous? Are you saying that the information from the New York Times, the US Dept. of Energy, the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, and from a physics professor at the University of Pittsburgh are not reliable???

This is not about Ann Coulter, it is about the information presented in the studies. Get off the talking points and dive into the data.

Are you ignorant or completely disingenuous

you are trolling here.

significant link

You’re a professor or admin. @ some school or a scientist somewhere, you wanna make money. Who’s paying big money for studies touting solar, wind etc. Nobody, because it’s not required, it’s obviously better than nuke.

Who’s paying for studies touting nuke? The fabulously rich nuke industry. Dept. of Energy, John Hopkins U. etc. What’s the result? Hey, nuke is actually good for you.

And you’re asking Zaphod if HE’S ignorant. The root word for ignorant is ignore.

Gimme a break, Chop.

How about 3 studies involving wind power:



AT THE BRAES OF DOUNE WINDFARM http://www.natural-research.org/documents/NRIN4final.pdf

2) THE PEREGRINE FUND’S POSITION ON WIND POWER GENERATION http://www.peregrinefund.org/pdfs/Commentaries/WindPosition-Aug2010.pdf


That took all of 2 minutes to Google, cut, and paste. Ok, I’ll give you a break: you don’t have to admit you are wrong….

Enrico Fermi, the great physicist, died at age 53 from stomach cancer. Two of his graduate students that

helped him on the Manhattan Project also died of cancer. All realized the risk they took, “but they considered the outcome so vital that they forged ahead with little regard for their own personal safety.”. It is reported that Fermi had reconciled himself to his fate.

Thank you for the update on the effects of prolonged exposure to extremely high levels of radiation to include personally watching the Trinity test. Now, get over your trauma of reading “Ann Coulter” and actually read the article. It is about sustained low levels of radiation being BENEFICIAL.

Enrico Fermi as a response to an article on studies of low level radiation exposure. Sheesh???

The problem with that column is that it overstates the case. Consider what she says about Chernobyl. By saying that only 31 people died as a result of the incident (That number is only from Acute Radiation Sickness, and only from the first 3 months. The WHO says roughly 200 emergency workers died of non-cancer related deaths), she seems to suggest that there was no other health effects as a result of Chernobyl. The thing is, the scientists who support hormesis never claimed that radiation at the levels that the Bio Robots or the physicists who crawled around under Reactor 4 were exposed to are good for you, or even safe.

So, yes, extremely low levels of radiation may be good for you. And, yes, “extremely low” may mean many times ‘background’ levels. This doesn’t make Reactor 4 at Chernobyl a good place to eat lunch or the basement at Fukashima’s turbine hall a good place to take a swim. This does mean that no one has ANYTHING to fear from the off site releases at Fukashima that have been detected so far. This isn’t Chernobyl, where 30% of the core material was flung all over the site and the surrounding area because of poor reactor design and a utter lack of containment.

This is utterly ridiculous. If radiation at certain levels is good for us then I would expect to see reports that read something as follows: Individuals living within a 200 to 245 mile radius (distance is used for example only) of the Chernobyl, 3 Mile Island and even the Hiroshima site of the initial contamination show a marked decrease in cancer rates by 90%! If it’s good for us, after analyzing atmospheric and wind conditions, there will be some point’s on that radius where these findings would prove true for many 1000’s of radiated humans, no ? Show me that evidence and I’ll stop laughing at your naiveté.

I have to wonder about these figures you give for renewable power. You say that, throughout the entire state of California that non-nuclear renewable power sources built since 2003 produce a combined output of 1,702 Mw. To put that in prospective, that’s about 60% of the combined power output from Diablo Canyon, which outputs roughly 2.2 Gw. But, I have to wonder if that 1,702 Mw is a very optimistic number. After all, solar panels don’t output anything at night and wind turbines don’t output anything when the wind isn’t blowing. Yet, so long as there’s fuel in the reactors, and path 15 is intact, Diablo Canyon will continue producing that roughly 2.2 Gw. Now, you could say that we have places like Helms, the massive pumped hydro system in the Sierra Foothills that stores power from Diablo during off-peak hours can store excesses from renewable power sources. It helps, but that isn’t going to magically make your wind turbine generate power when the wind isn’t blowing.

Take a look at the total energy output that any given non-nuclear renewable power plant per year. Divide that number the amount of time in a year, and convert the units until you get watts. Now, I bet that’s 1.7 Gw from new non-nuclear renewable power sources is going to fall very quickly. Of course, using that measure, Diablo Canyon’s output is slightly lower (the reactors have to be shut down for refueling every 18 months), but it’s still much closer to it’s rated capacity. Like it or not, that baseline capacity has to come from somewhere. Diablo Canyon is the right tool for the job.

There is no such thing as a “safe” dose of radiation; while there are certainly doses that can be and are fatal, to assume that any exposure to radiation is “safe” belies any notion of scientific facts. Because of how our cells in our bodies react to the effects of radiation, even the smallest doses encountered can lead to the triggering of a mutation of our cells, better known as “cancer”. What you will see in nuclear industry literature, government information and medical brochures is what is called “permissible” doses which is industry speak for “we think that the probability that you will have a reaction in your body that will result in the onset of cancer as statistically very unlikely”, but you will never ever see a scientific notation that there is any level of exposure of radiation that is considered “safe”, because a true scientist will acknowledge that any possibility of a gene or cell mutation is more than zero, and if you cannot guarantee zero, you cannot claim that it is “safe”.

In addition, to say nuclear is the cheapest form of electrical generation is ludicrous as soon as you take having to store the nuclear waste for 100,000 years, many times longer than recorded history, into account. The excuse 40 years ago was technology would find a solution. The only solution so far is to store it on site or in a big cave in Nevada whenever the right is in power to complete construction. While the big cave is better than above ground storage, either storage option makes nuclear electric generation by far the most expensive electrical generation after taking into account the cost of storage for 100,000 years. Could you imagine 20,000 years from now in 22,011 answering the want ad for supervising the storing of the nuclear waste from 2011?

Or, we could re-process the fuel into another usable form or into much shorter isotopes. There are already reactor designs that do this.

If you buy into to that, it seems like all the more reason to build more nuclear power plants to replace our aging coal plants. You see, a typical coal plant releases more radioactive material than a typical nuclear plant. As a result, those living near a coal plant receive a higher radioactive dose than those living near a nuclear plant. Of course, the dose is tiny for both. For living within 50 miles of a nuclear plant, a year’s exposure is equivalent to eating a banana. For those living with 50 miles of a coal-fired plant, a year’s exposure is roughly equivalent to 3 bananas.

Of course, your assumption also has to explain how the human survives, considering the ~3.6 mSv of radiation that we are exposed to on average. Most of that comes from natural sources. Which is why I don’t buy it. Our bodies have always been exposed to ionizing radiation. If life hadn’t evolved a response to it, we’d all be dead. Additionally, there’s evidence that shows no difference in cancer rates between those who live in areas with different levels of background radiation.

I do happen to “buy into” the notion (scientific fact, actually) that there is no “safe” dose of radiation, but I do realize that there the human race has been exposed to natural radiation since we have been of the face of the earth. There are people who develop cancer for what seems no reason at all, and of course, untold billions have lived lives without cancers developing at all. My point here is that all additional radiation exposures that we encounter ALWAYS increases the probability that we COULD develop a reaction that could lead to a cancer. Cumulative effects have been documented by scientific research which no one with a functioning brain would try to dispute; I am not saying that we should be afraid to step out of the house or eat a banana or two, but I would caution that if one can avoid knowingly exposing one’s self to radiation (especially man-made, not naturally occurring) it would seem only prudent. There are many very good arguments against nuclear generation of electrical power, such as the energy needed to extract, process, transport and safeguard uranium, but to me the overriding concern is always (and will be for hundreds of thousands of years) the safeguarding of the nuclear waste from the reactors. To assume that we can keep the “genie in the bottle” for 250,000 years is an assumption that is beyond arrogant.

If this is a scientific fact, do you have any citations? I know my source isn’t that great, but at least they cite a peer-reviewed study where they found that low doses of radiation caused an increase in longevity.

As far as dealing with the nuclear waste, you continue to ignore fuel reprocessing. With breeder reactors, we can recycle most of the spent fuel. We can also convert the parts that we can’t recycle into isotopes that have much shorter half lives.

Since you can’t seem to work the google: “12,200,000 hits, .09 seconds”; from the first page of hits: Report from April 6, 2011

Report from 2005 (I will admit that this one is probably biased)

Report from 1995; this one if by a gentleman who is an MD, and a PHD, has written 4 books on radiation health effects, is a Professor Emeritus of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley and a former associate director at Livermore National Laboratory.

Point is, it is not my “opinion” that there is no such thing as a “safe” dose of radiation, it is scientific fact, period.

As for fuel reprocessing; why on earth would I be in favor of taking an already toxic material and concentrating it to make it even more toxic? One of the by-products of reprocessed nuclear fuel is plutonium, the single most deadly substance known to mankind, and you want to make more of it? Where ever it is unfortunate enough to have a thermal nuclear plant (the kind that uses reprocessed fuel) after the components that are removed from the nuclear waste that is shipped there for reprocessing, you still have a lot of nuclear waste, AND once the reprocessed fuel is used, the spent fuel then has to be stored indefinitely, and since it is much more “hot” (radioactive) there is no net gain of storage space for spent fuel. It is extremely expensive, very dangerous and an exceptionally ripe target for terrorists looking to make a dirty bomb or worse. Reprocessed nuclear fuel? No thanks.

“The single most deadly substance known to mankind”

Well… If you pack it into a sphere just right, and surround it with a pressure chamber and some explosives, you can force it to go supercritical and create a devastating explosion. Except, said explosion is so devastating that almost no body has used such bombs in warfare. By the measure of real casualties in war, the steel used to make a automat kalashnikov or perhaps the lead in the bullets it fires is much more deadly.

Or perhaps you mean in terms of being irritated in a criticality accident. A number of our top-scientists died that way during the Manhattan Project. Yet, in terms of real lives lost, again not very many. Also, you need a decant amount of reasonably pure plutonium to have a criticality accident. It’s not something that just happens on its own.

Or, perhaps you mean as a poison. It’s not exactly good for you, but I can think of a lot of things that are more poisonous. I’ve been told that Methylmercury is pretty bad, and that it’s hard to beat botulinum.

There are lots of other places that are ripe targets for terrorists. Oil refineries, high-voltage lines, hydroelectric dams, gas-pipelines… Hitting any one of those is going to make a mess and likely going to get some people killed. Yet, we still build these things… Perhaps because the utility we extract from them is much higher than the mitigated risk of a terrorist successfully attacking them?

There are methods of reducing the amount of long-lived isotopes and the radioactivity of nuclear waste.There are also fuel cycles that don’t produce long-lived high-level nuclear waste and cannot be used to build an atomic bomb. In fact, the latter is really the endgame I want to see from the US nuclear industry. I hope that Diablo Canyon gets its license renewal (provided that the reactor in and its containment are up to snuff) and continues to operate until 2040. By then, I hope that PG&E decides to replace the (then) half-century old PWRs there with a new molten-salt or molten-metal thorium cycle reactor or two.

With all due respect to Jack McCurdy, I am a little uncomfortable with the way he’s seems to be twisting my on-air comments. Yes, I did wonder about the extent of damage to the Central Coast if a Japan-type disaster ever happened here. But my challenge was to the listeners — “If you’re so concerned, why do you stay here? Why don’t you move away?” It certainly wasn’t a question I was asking myself.

The fact that I’m still here–and intend to be–denotes that I don’t share the concern that some people have about Diablo Canyon. If I did, I would move.

I didn’t like that question. I’m concerned but I’m not moving away. I’d rather move towards getting rid of that place. When I moved here Diablo was only supposed to be operational for 10 years,,,at least that was the way that I understood it to be. They said that the plant was only made to run for another 10 years, that was 27 years ago. That plant needs to be shut, we shouldn’t have to move. The people that live in Pismo don’t like the polluted water, should they just move or should they try and get the water cleaned up?

Diablo Canyon – BofS Agenda 4-12-11 – STOP Relicensing – NOW!


The SLO Co. Board of Supervisors will consider voting on sending a letter to PG&E asking it to “voluntarily agree to stay relicensing” for Diablo Canyon until advanced seismic mapping of faults near the plant are completed and independently reviewed.

The proposed letter will be copied to the NRC, CPUC, CEC, PG&E and Senators Boxer and Feinstein, Representative Capps, Senator Blakeslee and Assemblyman Achadjian.

1. ATTEND SLO Co. BofS Meeting

Tuesday, April 12

9:00 AM – Meeting Begins / Diablo Canyon letter shortly after start.

Agenda Item C-1 (after Consent Agenda and right after Public Comment Period) *

Tell the BofS to:

Vote to send letters directly to the NRC and CPUC advocating that they return PG&E’s relicensing applications until advanced seismic studies of all faults near Diablo Canyon are finished and examined. Urge them to join Senator Sam Blakeslee and Representative Lois Capps in calling on them to halt relicensing. Urge them to copy the CEC and Senators Boxer and Feinstein, Representative Capps, Governor Brown, Senator Blakeslee and Assemblyman Achadjian. Tell them to do this in addition to sending a letter to PG&E.

2. EMAIL the BofS:

boardofsups@co.slo.ca.us, fmecham@co.slo.ca.us, bgibson@co.slo.ca.us, ahill@co.slo.ca.us, jpatterson@co.slo.ca.us, pteixeira@co.slo.ca.us,

* Agenda on Web (http://slocounty.granicus.com/GeneratedAgendaViewer.php?view_id=2&event_id=81) – Staff Report linked.


The NRC is forging ahead with relicensing without the information these new studies would produce.

The CPUC is not requiring their completion before considering PG&E’s relicensing funding application.

In 2009, the CEC said PG&E should not submit a relicensing application to the NRC until the studies are completed.

In 2010, the BofS wrote the NRC that relicensing should not be initiated until they are completed and reviewed.

PG&E disagrees and the voices of the BofS and CEC fell on deaf ears.

It’s 13 years until Diablo’s licenses begin to expire, and these studies will only take 3 to 4 years.

The Japanese disaster shows how wrong industry and government assumptions about potential earthquake magnitude and nuclear plant structural integrity can be.

Their tragedy shows the moral, environmental and economic folly of considering another 20 years operating aging reactors with vulnerable radioactive waste sitting on an earthquake zone without fully examining the forces possibly unleashed.

We cannot allow Diablo Canyon’s relicensing to proceed in the face of blatant negligence and ignorance of attainable information about the seismic risks.

We must amplify our own and the BofS’s voices and demand an end to this recklessness.

NOTE: The subject of Agenda Item C-1 is specifically about not continuing with relicensing in the absence of crucial data relative to seismic danger to, and safety of, the plant’s facilities, i.e., about not flying blind in the permitting process. Although there are many reasons for opposing Diablo and nuclear power in general, and for concerns about emergency planning in the event of an accident, those matters will not be considered germane to this proposed letter on this agenda.

sent by David Broadwater

How much toxic waste is being produced during the industrial production of all those solar cells? Being made in China, I am betting the environmental impact of that toxic waste is larger than ALL of the radiation released from ALL of the nuclear plants in the US over the last 50 years.

The dirty little secret of the wind power industry is the number of bird strikes per years. From http://www.fs.fed.us/psw/publications/documents/psw_gtr191/Asilomar/pdfs/1051-1064.pdf : “More than 15,000 wind turbines may

kill 40,000 or more birds annually nationwide, the majority

in California…” Compare that number of dead birds to the number killed from nuclear power, or even from oil spills.

Why would anyone buy Chinese Solar panels when American made are availble at the same price?

But if you shop at Wallmart, Cosco and Home depot well sure, imported crap is what you will get.

“How much toxic waste is being produced during the industrial production of all those solar cells? Being made in China”,

Well???? nearly as much as the 1,000,000 Toyota Prius vehicles and sold to us Americans, and peanuts compared to the battery powered cars coming our way that will need to be charged every day,have batteries replaced and recycled and come from various proven environmentally violating countries. But hey, were at the happiest place on earth now, not just in the nation, so its all good in our little bubble of denial.

Alarmist claptrap.

A chickenshit attempt to make political hay out of the Japanese disaster.

I am going to try to read the rest of the article later, but the lede sure makes it look like bile.

You forgot to add “yet” after the” has caused zero deaths”. If you truly believe the exposure levels the emergency workers have been exposed to wasn’t a death for them,which they were aware of your beyond uneducated on the facts.

250 mSv (the emergency dose limit imposed on operations at Fukashima) isn’t anywhere close to fatal. It’s not healthy (think long term cancer risks), but it’s probably not going to kill you. Know your radiation doses.

The Tsuanmi and quake in japan has caused the death of thousands of people and that is quite tragic. The disaster at the nuclear power plant in japan, caused by the tsuanmi, not the directly by the earthquake, has caused zero deaths. It is important to be vigilant and oversee the activity at the plant because nuclear power plants are very high maintenance…thats what keeps them safe. But lets keep the fear mongering within reason