Barbara Boxer grills NRC over Diablo Canyon

February 4, 2014

diabOPINION By ALLIANCE FOR NUCLEAR RESPONSIBILITY

For the second time since November of last year, Senator Barbara Boxer has called upon Chairman Allison Macfarlane of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to explain and clarify how the NRC can allow Pacific Gas & Electric to continue to operate the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in San Luis Obispo in spite of previous determinations that new seismic evidence places the facility out of compliance with the parameters of its original licensing design basis.

SENATOR BOXER: Chairman Mafarlane, are these statements accurate? One, NRC’s former resident inspector for Diablo Canyon filed a formal dissent saying Diablo was operating outside the seismic requirements of its license. Is that accurate?

CHAIRMAN MACFARLANE: I believe that the senior resident in years past did file a non-concurrence.

SENATOR BOXER: You believe that is correct then?

CHAIRMAN MACFARLANE: I believe that is correct.

SENATOR BOXER: He also said that PG&E’s own analysis showed that the newly discovered faults could cause ground shaking that was 70 percent stronger than the NRC license allows. Is that correct?

CHAIRMAN MACFARLANE: I would have to look. I’m do not have that with me.

SENATOR BOXER: Would you get back to me?

CHAIRMAN MACFARLANE: I will take that for the record.

SENATOR BOXER: OK, I have a number of other questions I want to ask about that for the record so I’ll ask all those.

That NRC Chairman Macfarlane appears unfamiliar with the seismic situation at Diablo Canyon is surprising. In November, she was presented with a copy of a paper from the Union of Concerned Scientists–UCS–(author: David Lochbaum) entitled, “Seismic Shift: Diablo Canyon Literally and Figuratively on Shaky Ground” (http://a4nr.org/?p=2998) receipt of which was formally acknowledged by her staff and distributed internally at the NRC. In addition, representatives of the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility presented her with the paper during a visit to her office that same month. Senator Boxer raised similar questions in her first hearing on the subject, which can be viewed at: http://a4nr.org/?p=3030.

The UCS paper provides precedents for many previous NRC decisions wherein unanswered or unanalyzed seismic questions or lapses led to the shutdown of the facility (including three in California) until such time as the concerns were mitigated or addressed. Why is Diablo Canyon–the largest of the facilities documented, being given a “pass” by the NRC in spite of these precedents? Why does Chairman Macfarlane respond as if this question is “new” to her? The Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility has presented her with two previous letters raising this concern. (viewable at: http://a4nr.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/072612-Macfarlane01.pdf and http://a4nr.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/111312-Macfarlane02.pdf)

In addition, Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara) raised similar questions before a House subcommittee hearing with the NRC in December 2013 (video at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nEcy9PRDA-8)

As Senator Boxer stated in her earlier questioning of the NRC, “Earthquakes do not wait until the nuclear industry and the NRC is ready to deal with these threats. And families who live near nuclear facilities–and I have a number of them–should not have to wait one additional day for needed safety enhancements at nuclear reactors.”

Adds Rochelle Becker, executive director of the Alliance, “This unconscionable stonewalling by the NRC–especially as we approach the third anniversary of the ongoing Fukushima disaster–demonstrates that the NRC’s concepts of ‘lessons learned’ is merely lip service. We should continue to support the efforts of our own state’s regulatory agencies like the Energy Commission and PUC, which have been either recommending or requiring that the utility promptly complete updated and independently reviewed seismic analyses. In order to insure affordable and reliable energy–especially after the NRC and SCE’s fiasco at San Onofre–our state legislature should be monitoring this issue as well.”

 


33 Comments

  1. Maxfusion says:

    Ms. Boxer is incompetent and a mental midget. So bad that even the San Francisco Chronicle refused to endorse her in the last election cycle. That alone should tell you all you need to know. As to the intellectual inventory of Lois, no comment is required.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 8

  2. isoslo says:

    Boxer grandstanding again, yawn

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 11

    • jrstone says:

      Like ALL don’t? Grandstanding to get something done is just fine with me… That’s the nature of a political system we all encourage…

      Just Sayin’…

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 6

  3. jrstone says:

    “By all means take a stand! Cut off your power!!!…And do not forget to show us the $30.000 you spent to get your solar panels that mind you will not pay for your investment for a minimum of 25 years!!!!”

    That’s what the poster said. Here’s my response:

    I asked my Dad why it was he wasn’t worried about our home value going up or down or it devaluing to the point of almost no worth at all? He told me that any place you call home the only value that should be seen in it is the value of raising and housing your family in it. If that investment comes back on the plus side then you’ve done your job as a home owner and more importantly as a home provider. I was looking forward to calling the home I was raised in my home and passing that type of “Family First” values on to my children, it didn’t happen. My Mother mortgaged it to hilt as investment capital after my Father passed and lost it.

    Throwing out your investment of $30,000.00 on solar panels and it’s “slow return” as some sort of litmus test for the rest of us to follow shows exactly where your heart is; can anyone say MONEY, MONEY, MOOOOONEY?

    Any seismologist will tell you that it’s not a matter of IF a quake with a magnitude great enough to do significant life threatening damage to DCNPP will occur, it’s a matter of WHEN, period!

    In fact what you are saying is you are willing to gamble with the health and well being of all of us, and your family, that the inevitable won’t happen any time soon, at least while you’re still alive.

    And the “cut off the power” rant?! Please! It’s like telling those of us who hate the pharmaceutical companies that rape us with their overpricing each time we pick up or needed medication(s) to stop getting it. Sure, that’ll show ‘em….

    If you had the “balls” you refer to all of us not having that know of the real dangers of DCNPP you’d make a point of moving in right along side the sight I suggested for the NRC Offices and Gary Kirkland’s home. Whata ya say? Put your money where your mouth is, eh….

    Just sayin”…

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  4. tojofay says:

    Excellent work Barbera and Lois!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 12

    • willnose says:

      Whenever I am with the “minority” of voters, I know I’m on the right side of the issue. Sure seems the die-hard R’s and Tea-baggers are verbal, punching buttons on this magazines website. Most of us Centrists have little need to do so, as we actually, and quietly go out and vote for what is right with this country and the people who make it so. What a change from 15 years ago…

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

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