Former Diablo Canyon inspector urges shut down
August 27, 2014
A former federal inspector at the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant has asked regulators to shut down the plant until it can be determined if it can withstand an earthquake of the Central Coast.
In a confidential July 2013 document that was released on Monday, Michael Peck stated his concerns to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Peck contends it is unsafe to continue operating Diablo Canyon without further evaluation of nearby faults and earthquake safety.
When the plant was first permitted in 1967, it was not required to have an earthquake emergency response plan. However, since then two faults have been discovered near the plant prompting earthquake procedures to be put in place.
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 (whether an earthquake beginning on the Hosgri Fault could continue on the Shoreline Fault, or vice versa, causing a larger earthquake than if either fault broke on its own), and whether this fault or fault displays could extend beneath the plant,” a California Energy Commission research report says.
In his 2013 document, Peck says that the plant’s license needs to be amended because of the discovery of the Shoreline Fault. He also questioned the methodology used to analyze earthquake risks associated with the fault.
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