Coastal Commission staff recommends denial of PG&E seismic testing

November 3, 2012

By KAREN VELIE

California Coastal Commission staff recommended on Friday that the board vote to deny PG&E’s seismic testing permit application and object to its consistency certification, according to a staff report.

Renewal of Diablo Canyon’s nuclear power plant’s operating license requires approval of its consistency certification by the commission. PG&E applied for the certification in 2009. The commission determined the application was incomplete partially because of a need for updated information regarding seismic studies that had been performed by the USGS and PG&E, according to a 2010 letter from the commission.

Then, in the aftermath of Japan’s nuclear calamity, concerns about Diablo Canyon’s nuclear power plant’s ability to withstand an earthquake had the public also demanding more information about neighboring faults. The California Public Utilities Commission then directed the utility to do further seismic testing as part of its license renewal.

PG&E responded by submitting a coastal development permit application and a consistency certification for the first phase of a potential two phase series of high-energy three-dimensional seismic imaging surveys. The survey would occur in the waters offshore of San Luis Obispo County between Cambria and Pismo Beach.

Many of the same groups and members of the public who demanded the testing began questioning its environmental and financial impacts such as the loss of life of a large number of marine species.

“Of particular concern are impacts to the harbor porpoise (Morro Bay stock), whose range is limited to the general project area, and the entire population of which is likely to be subject to behavioral harassment,” commission staff says in the report. “The project would also adversely affect Marine Protected Areas, fish and other invertebrates, involving both physiological impacts as well as economic impacts to commercial and recreational fishing by precluding fishing and potentially affecting fish behavior and biology.”

Before the plant was put into operation, after the discovery of the Hosgri Fault in 1971 by Shell Oil, a long and contentious battle between the state and PG&E ensued raising the cost of construction, first estimated at $320 million, by over $5 billion. As a result of finding the Hosgri Fault, Diablo’s design was changed and the plant was retrofitted to withstand a magnitude 7.5 earthquake.

In 1985, the $5.7 billion plant began producing energy.

In 2008, a second fault dubbed the Shoreline Fault was discovered less than a mile from the plant by U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) geologist Jeanne Hardebeck using data from USGS and PG&E monitors.

Even though the Nuclear Regulatory Commission concluded that Diablo Canyon’s design would withstand a potential earthquake on the Shoreline Fault, “The fault’s major characteristics are largely unknown, e.g., its length, proximity to the plant and relationship to the Hosgri Fault and whether the fault displays could extend beneath the plant,” a California Energy Commission research report says.

In assessing PG&E’s proposal, Coastal Commission staff determined that there was insufficient information available at this time to conclude the proposed testing is the least damaging feasible alternative which includes no seismic testing.

“Finally, regarding the “no project” or “no project at this time” alternatives, it appears premature to conduct the currently proposed survey during the fall of 2012, as other ongoing data collection and analysis efforts by PG&E, the NRC, and USGS are likely to provide even better seismic characterization of the DCPP area in the near future and thereby potentially reduce the need, extent or duration of the proposed survey,’ The staff report says.

The California Coastal Commission will discuss the options at a hearing scheduled for Nov. 14.

 


18 Comments

  1. WiseGuy says:

    Folks, please realize this blasting plan is still moving ahead. The Coastal Commission has NOT denied it. The danger continues to loom over us while some people are being paid to convince us we have nothing to worry or complain about.

    Unless you have done the research into what is being planned, and the environment it is being planned for, this is far worse than you are likely to imagine. And we are letting it happen in our name as citizens and PG&E ratepayers.

    Where is Sam Blakeslee? He’s got a LOT to answer for.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 6

    • TheHeez says:

      What does Blakeslee have to answer for? His constituents demanded that Diablo’s seismic threats be better researched following the japanese disaster. He pushed for further testing and PG&E acquiesced to his demands. He worked his butt off to answer the demands of the people in his district. How dare he!!

      To use the scare tactics that this testing will destroy the ecosystem of the entire Pacific Ocean is ludicrous. The ocean is not a static organism. This testing might effect it in the short term, but the ocean and its inhabitants will overcome. They have proven to be incredibly resilient time and time again.

      I’m curious what the alternative is. Do all you folks just want to shut down the plant? How do you propose we generate the lost energy production. Both solar and wind have their drawbacks, are you willing to pay significantly more in your energy costs? Shall we burn more natural gas?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 4

      • celebratepaso says:

        Maybe PG&E could better use that $64 million that we ratepayers are stuck paying & start installing solar panels on rooftops in the county. Being that the CCC has denied their permit for the testing, maybe now would be a good time for them to start seriously considering solar rather than limping along an old nuclear waste plant. Times, they are a’changin’.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  2. WiseGuy says:

    The marine area that PG&E acknowledges it will put into danger (and have set aside more than a million dollars to mitigate–although complete mitigation is acknowledged to be impossible) a marine environment so dense with marine life that some consider it one of the most abundant foot for foot in the world.)
    ANY destruction of this environment can have SERIOUS ramifications for the ENTIRE PACIFIC OCEAN ECOSYSTEM. This not hyperbole.

    I know of NO other sonic blasting that has been this severe in an area that is so critical to the ecosystem of the ocean it was proposed for. This sonic ocean blasting is UNPRECEDENTED and will do nothing whatsoever to make the Diablo Canyon Nucear Power Plant safer in the event of an earthquake. The plants structure we already know to be in danger in earthquakes of over 7.5. PGE already admits that.

    There is no argument there.

    This is a BOONDOGGLE. Look up that word if you don’t know what it means.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 7

  3. r0y says:

    Well, I guess I can cross this off my list of “Top Twenty-Five Thousand Things to Be Scared About” – whew!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  4. MaryMalone says:

    Well, thank YOU, Coastal Commission, for finally getting off your keisters and doing your job.

    Who had to give you permission before you could do the right thing?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 9

  5. TaxMeAgain says:

    The beautiful, intricate nature of a cluster phuck. The CPUC, CEC, and the Coastal Commission bow to pressure from the anti-nukes, Adam Hill, Capps, and Blakeslee and then realize, after it’s too late mind you, that they royally screwed up. Now what? The data is not really necessary and some of the best seismologists in the world at the NRC have agreed. PG&E has detailed (and updated) data from low energy ocean testing and on shore testing. Pack up and go home. Quit raising our electric rates by forcing PG&E to do this nonsense.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 5

  6. celebratepaso says:

    No one really knows what size of an earthquake mother nature is capable of producing off our shores (or on, for that matter). We’re looking at a nuclear waste plant that has served its years. Put the $64 million into retrofitting it if PG&E wants to keep it open. Otherwise, shut it down.

    The seismic testing is a waste of ratepayers’ money as we all know it will cost a lot more than $64 million when you take into consideration the payoff for the fishermen and whatever damages the testing will do to our local economy, especially if marine deaths occur and we lose tourism. Not only that, but how do we keep people off the beaches during the testing? Who will patrol the people and what will that cost be? Who will clean up any dead animals and what will the cost be for necropsies that will need to be done? The $64 million is just a start. And guess who will pay for all of it? We will.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 5

  7. givemeabreak says:

    FINALLY, the Coastal Commission does something RIGHT!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 8

  8. Cindy says:

    The plant was built to withstand a 7.5 mag quake but we are already 40-50 years past due for another 8.5 – 8.9 mag quake. History repeats itself so can the nuke plant withstand a quake that size or not?

    YES or NO, it’s really that simple. Why all the smoke and mirrors ?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 8

    • BeenThereDoneThat says:

      Cindy your analogy is clouded. Yes we are overdue for a 8.0+ but that is on the San Andres fault. With the distance from the plant it would not equivilate to an 8 at the plant by the time it travels that distance. As for the fault that was near Diablo it has always been my understandinf for the 32 years I have been here, that the plant was built for 7.5 becauce all the nearby faults only had the ability to produce upwards of a 6.9 (I believe) at best. So no smoke and mirrors. This has all come about (relook) because of the Japan disaster last year. Simple as that.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 2

      • Cindy says:

        BTDT, The San Andres supposedly has the ability to dump us all in the ocean. It’s beyond me that the Nuke Plant is exempt….

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 8

        • OnTheOtherHand says:

          Cindy,
          Your information about the capabilities of the San Andres fault is merely wishful thinking on behalf of the hordes of people in other states who hate California for various reasons.

          It is a “slip” fault along which movement is almost entirely side-to-side. You can see this by taking a trip to the eastern parts of the county and looking at the pattern of the drainages down the hillsides under which the fault lies.

          This in no way guarantees that we couldn’t have a sufficiently bad quake nearby that would cause problems at Diablo — just that it is unlikely that it would come from the San Andres Fault. I am more concerned about the level of expertise of those who originally evaluated the Hosgri and other local faults and the subsequent “safety considerations” incorporated into the design at Diablo. I had more trust before the quake in Japan but those supposedly expert technicians over there (with far more practical quake experience than here in the US) still underestimated the amount and type of damage a big quake can cause.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

    • IherpedAndThenI Derped says:

      What do you mean “we” are due for an 8.5 – 8.9 do you know much about faults and this area? The history of quakes? Where are you getting this from?? You are using what we call “scare tactics” to get your clouded point across and I DO NOT APPRECIATE IT since I have 2 close friends who work in seismology

      Probability rates

      Probability of earthquakes within the next 50 years Within 31 Miles / 50km above magnitude
      Magnitude
      Probability
      5.0
      77.188%
      5.1
      71.099%
      5.2
      64.813%
      5.3
      58.555%
      5.4
      52.510%
      5.5
      46.815%

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

      • celebratepaso says:

        You may have two friends who are wonderful seismologists but no one can know precisely what Mother Nature is capable of producing in the form of earthquakes. And a nuclear plant situated on 13 earthquake faults will never be safe. Period.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

      • WiseGuy says:

        If your seismologists are honest and know what they are talking about, they would tell you that the world is overdue for an 8.0 or larger quake. It is rare when a year goes by without one of these official “Great” quakes occurring.

        They will also likely tell you there is no proven method for predicting when or where that quake might occur and that it is absolutely possible that it could happen in California, and will likely happen this century.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  9. standup says:

    And to think PGE got permission from the PUC to pass on the coasts to us. Here is my middle finger to you PGE!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 6

    • MaryMalone says:

      On the other hand, the PUC is standing up to San Onofre, and it looks like the ratepayers for that nuclear facility will actually end up getting their money back, after PG&E continuing, all these months, to CHARGE them for San Onofre when the plant was shut down.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

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