NRC: Diablo explosion was ‘catastrophic failure’

August 21, 2008


A senior official of the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said today “an explosion” which occurred August 18 at Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant was a life-threatening “catastrophic failure.”

No radioactive leaks were reported, however, at the South County facility.

“It was an explosion,” Michael Peck, an NRC senior resident inspector, told “Had it happened during business hours, someone in the vicinity would have risked injury. The explosion propelled shrapnel into offices.”

NRC spokesperson Scott Burnell described the explosion as “energetic.”

“From a nuclear safety prospective, it was a minor event,” said Burnell. “From a man on the street prospective, it was a very energetic event. It is a good thing no one was injured.”

PG&E officials have described the incident as a “fire.”

Federal regulators confirmed the explosion shattered windows, blasted debris into administration building offices, and scorched the exterior of the service air building. A transformer exploded and burst into flames shortly before midnight. It took fire crews approximately 30 minutes to extinguish the blaze.

One of Diablo Canyon’s two reactors remains shut down. There was no danger of a radiation leak, both federal and PG&E officials agreed.

In their original reports to the NRC, PG&E officials at Diablo claimed no damage to other buildings had occurred.

“We filed it as a fire and originally reported no damage,” said PG&E spokesperson Sharon Gavin. “When we first filed, the fire was still going on.”

Gavin said the utility “is taking this as seriously as it should be taken. We are looking at steps to protect all of our people.”

When transformers fail, a reportedly common event, the oil used for coolant catches on fire, though under normal circumstances the transformer’s fire suppression system steps in.

“All transformers have fire suppression systems that work automatically,” Peck added. “One possibility is internal fault caused catastrophic failure like this.”

NRC officials are gathering information to make a determination into the cause of the event. Officials said a preliminary investigation into the incident will take about 30 days.

“First we determine what occurred and what may have contributed to the more energetic than usual event at the transformer,” Burnell said. “We determine if anything was done incorrectly. Then we determine a fine, or take action to enforce regulations.”



  1. ccn_debate says:

    Member Opinions:
    By: Anonymous on 9/4/08
    In other words, poor little Dana is Unemployed and has way too much time on her hands..Muthers for Peace..ha..and i totally agree with Get Lost, except that Nuclear Plants dont Blow up…the radiation released from Three Mile Island was equivalent to the radiation that the people who live in Denver receive every day.
    By: Anonymous on 9/3/08
    If you don't like power so much, move to Arkansas, live in a cabin, and enjoy all that living off the grid has to offer. I am much more fearful of the deterioration of our country at the hand sof weak kneed, spineless liberals, that have want to turn us into a bunch of cowards, than the worry of Diablo blowing us all into oblivion.
    By: Anonymous on 9/3/08

    Amazing, If they just told the truth on that faithful Sunday or even the next Monday there wouldn't
    have been any article on uncover slow, that PG&E spokeswoman wouldn't have to go on KVEC and lie and
    none of these comments would be posted. Bad PR all the way around.

    You would think that the nuclear industry would have learned their lesson and after three mile island,
    but I guess not.

    One of the first rules of crisis management, is just tell the truth and try not to sugarcoat
    By: Anonymous on 9/3/08
    Dana is one of those desperate housewives on muthas 4 piece.
    She is a plant.I am disguted.
    By: Anonymous on 9/3/08
    Congratulations, by choosing driving over flying you increase your net risk

    Any time spent driving is riskier (much) than living in the vicinity of Diablo.

    I don't feel the need to give weight to the opinions of someone who is so nonsensical about the risks he takes.

    You are dismissed.

    By: Anonymous on 9/3/08
    Dana does not fly (anymore) after a long conversation with a group of airline pilots at SLC. They were awaiting repair of the data system that issues all the flight-plans at SLC. They traded stories on the lack of ongoing aircraft maintenance due to corporate edicts, and that many of the new pilots were be appointed as 'first-officer' (in the regional jets like fly out of SLO) with only 1200 hrs. pilot time.

    Dana does drive, but only at the speed limit, in the right lane, and in a hybrid.

    Dana earns her living helping to research and edit material for various authors. At the moment, it's for a non-fiction book on the subject of commercial land development.

    (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
  2. ccn_debate says:

    By: Anonymous on 9/3/08
    Hmmm, Dana has time to slander others but none to answer direct, pertient questions.

    The silence is deafening.
    By: Anonymous on 9/3/08
    When I moved to SLO County in 1980 I was warned that the county was 'corrupt'. Not just corrupt, but loaded with very dumb people.
    By: Anonymous on 9/3/08
    $5 sez Dana flies and speeds.
    By: Anonymous on 9/3/08
    You can chose not to get on airplane. You can chose to drive above the speed limit. You cannot chose to avoid a disaster in your home when the result of an error that contaminates your neighborhood for several lifetimes.
    By: Anonymous on 9/3/08
    Why? Because you cant handle the truth…God forbid if someone had died..that would have been the end of the world…A plain can go down killing all on board and youre on the next flight..A boat sinks and all on board are killed and youre on the next cruise…hundreds of thousands of people are killed on our highways each year and there you are going 70 in the slow lane driving your Volvo…Like i said before, its Safer to live next to or work in a nuclear power plant than it is to be a passenger in Senator Edward Kennedy's car…!
    By: Anonymous on 9/3/08
    PG&E told the truth…it just wasn't the "truth" you wanted to hear.
    Muthas 4 peice sucks and so does congalton for badgering that women.
    Sad yet predictable.
    By: Anonymous on 9/2/08
    I'm totally amazed, this article wasn't about the pros or cons of nukclear energy
    or if you like PG&E or not. It's about PG&E not telling us the truth. I heard their
    spokesperson on KVEC morning news flat-out deny there was an explosion, not once but twice!
    For crying out loud, tell us the truth! That's what people should be talking about on
    this blog. I'm sick of being lied too.
    By: Anonymous on 9/2/08
    Actually, do remember. Use the wonder of the Internet to read actual accounts of the reactor destruction. It was a man-caused failure. Someone wanted to test output at lower power levels. An actual nuclear explosion occurred in the process. Amazing. Lots of facts for those who like facts over hyperbole. Also, why is it that no insurance company will insure a nuclear powerplant in the US?
    By: Anonymous on 9/2/08
    I heard the PG&E spokesperson on the radio news denying that this was an explosion.

    I'm in favor of nuclear power and PG&E. Diablo Canyon dose a lot of good in San Luis. However, I want to be fully informed of problems. If you have nothing to hide, why not tell the whole truth.

    Really gives me a lot of confidence in the quality of information they're disbursing.
    By: Anonymous on 9/2/08
    I like Canyon Canyon.

    All we are asking for is honesty and truth, don't lie to us again!

    (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
  3. ccn_debate says:

    By: Anonymous on 8/31/08
    Don't shut down Diablo…Shut down those housewives from Muthas 4 peice.
    They need to find a new hobby.
    By: Anonymous on 8/30/08
    "All we are asking for is honesty and truth.

    The Chernobyl nuclear power plant was designed by good ol' Westinghouse of the United States."

    What a crock. Chernobyl Unit 4 was a purely Soviet design.

    What other lies do you have to spread?
    By: Anonymous on 8/29/08
    Me angry? Heck no. I appreciate the skill with which one gets the customers to pay for the plush ride to make daily visits with two to three companions. As an exec. myself, I know that despite the Internet mumbo-jumbo, there's no way to use on-line conferencing, cellphones, etc. to replace the hand's-on mastery. Also, I think the view's nicer here than Oakland.
    By: Anonymous on 8/29/08
    Slo county is a lil backwards to get a real corporate exec to live here so they fly them in.
    If you are angry at that why not ask algore why he flys everywhere in a private jet!
    By: Anonymous on 8/29/08
    I like airplanes and that PGE daily flys plant execs back and forth to Oakland from SLO (& Arcata) in their 19 million-dollar Embraer 19-seat Jet(Brazilian). They successfully buried the jet costs in PUC requests for rate increases.
    By: Anonymous on 8/29/08
    PG&E is so full of you-know-what. Did anyone catch the PG&E flak on Congalton Thursday? The guy was going on and on about the need for us to lessen our carbon footprint and protect the environment. Then Congalton asked him how he was gettimg home to the Bay Area that night.

    PG&E corporate jet!

    By: Anonymous on 8/29/08
    Nuclear power would have a brighter future if officials in charge would always tell the truth.

    In this forum we see people who seem to support nuclear power accident cover-ups. What is wrong with "the whole truth, and nothing but the truth"?

    Nuclear power is certainly dangerous beyond what most of us can imagine.. More so when dishonest or unscrupulous people have their hands in it.

    All we are asking for is honesty and truth.

    The Chernobyl nuclear power plant was designed by good ol' Westinghouse of the United States.

    (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
  4. ccn_debate says:

    By: Anonymous on 8/29/08
    To "Just dont keep whining to us" and "Anonamouse".
    It is hard to deal with the REAL facts and lies isnt it..Crap youve been feeding the public for the last 30 years and has caused any global warming problem that we might be facing right now. You created it by stopping Nuclear power plants and forcing us to use Coal and natural gas to get our energy…You caused it..Ha…keep whining..
    By: Anonymous on 8/29/08
    Oh, yeah, storing radioactive waste in a high school gymnasium. Another bright idea from the head-up-their- ass crowd.
    By: Anonymous on 8/28/08
    Outsider. One down side for spewing false information these days is that it is much easier to separate the lies from the truth. Try again and don't be so obvious this time. That was very funny though. Thanks for the laughs. 40 yrs. That's rich.
    By: Anonymous on 8/28/08
    To all the people ripping on Diablo: aren't your computers that you spew your opinions on this site powered by, Wierd.
    By: Anonymous on 8/28/08
    Attacking Diablo after decades of safety is a 'catastrophic failure', yet it is the favorite playground of the radical left eco marxists. Move on, get a hobby. You antics are not needed nor appreciated any longer.
    By: Anonymous on 8/28/08
    Ah, oui, oui. Le recycled fuel ees so sweet. Mon ami, the resultant plutonium to be stored might be too tempting. Perhaps to simple a read:

    Or, from those unreliable science folks at:
    By: Anonymous on 8/28/08
    Pepe le Caca
    Try reading the France article. Nothing happened and no one was hurt as usual. Just histeria..and the 10,000 yr hoax is an old talking point. Try 40 years. There really is NO waste today..The spent fuel rods are recycled and used as fuel again..Only about 3% is actual waste. All of the nuclear waste stockpiled since the 1950's can be stored in the area of a high school gymnasium. Those are the facts…Thanks Frenchy
    By: Anonymous on 8/28/08
    I hate capitalism. The people can earn wealth and I can't touch it. grrrrr
    Vote Obama and redistribute your nations wealth fairly.
    By: Anonymous on 8/27/08
    When McCain and Charlie Crist walk down the aisle we can all say hallelujah. No more sweating bullets that Milton Friedman's Chicago Boys would be slowed. Corporations will continue their free-reign, and the top two percent can keep their Gulfstreams on-call.

    'Happen can be guaranteed that something will always keep the world off balance so profits can be made. Keep your Hummer warm.
    By: Anonymous on 8/27/08
    When McCain gets elected we will start to drill offshore, covert coal to liquid, produce huge amounts of natural gas, process shale oil, build badly needed nukes and to appease the birkenstock sandle wearing volvo driving, patchuli oil wearing tie die hippies stuck in the 1960's, he will throw up a few wind mills.
    Ya'll better get on the right side of history and keep America powered, and rich and keep jobs here. But if you don't agree, then invest YOUR money in that fairy tale alternative fuel BS…not mine!
    By: Anonymous on 8/27/08
    I agreed build le nuke mon ami. You must learn to ignore the radioactive leaks en Frances. Forgive the lying employees and get used to storing tons of contaminated waste for 10,000 yrs. Oui, it ees so cheap compared to conserving. Must have that HD-TV!

    (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
  5. ccn_debate says:

    By: Anonymous on 8/27/08
    The US is planning to build 45 more nuclear power plants as soon as possible. This argument is moot.
    We need at least 10 in California alone to bring the cost down and clean up the environment, especially in the valley where they have all the coal fired power plants.
    Build now…build everywhere.
    Special interst fringe groups don't run this joint. It's run by those that own it. We the people.
    By: Anonymous on 8/27/08
    Are you talking "approval" before or after it was discovered that the power plant was built wrong, based on backwards printed blue prints?
    By: Anonymous on 8/27/08
    While PG&E is repairing the turbine lets go ahead and open the two additional reactors that Diablo was originally approved for…
    By: Anonymous on 8/26/08
    Opposing viewpoints are a good and necessary thing. Coming out of left field with nonsensical, hurtful rambling is not.
    A thinking and reasonable person can debate a issue without resorting to name calling and personal attacks. Those are the tools of an uninformed coward. IMO
    By: Anonymous on 8/26/08
    Let's get back to bashing Diablo. That's more fun
    By: Anonymous on 8/26/08
    Nobody loves a debate like I do. Its always so interesting to get both sides. Its educational. Again nobody loves a good debate like I do. So debate if you like but you don't. You just go "off topic" and rant about the nonsensical. Then you try to make it all seem sane. It isn't. People like you are destructive to all semblance of reason and are counter productive to cognitive reasoning and valuable debate (truth searching & honest sharing).
    By: Anonymous on 8/26/08
    censor these clowns! We only want our kind here. Can't you get rid of these people that don't agree with us. It's OUR blog! They can't have it.
    By: Anonymous on 8/26/08
    By: Anonymous on 8/26/08
    This site is about this story. No one owes it to anybody to put up with a bloggers bunch of personal bs. I wish the administrators would delete all posts that are off topic.
    By: Anonymous on 8/26/08
    What this site needs to do is change servers and blog sites so that Dan & Karen can do what Congalton has ordered them to do…"Censor comments".
    Then this site will die like his blog has and he won't have any competition.
    With censoring and banning certain bloggers this site will spiral down in a cloud of controversy. So sad. But then that will teach you to mess with Congalton or Hillary.
    Censor now Dan & Karen cuz we only want people here that agree with us. Do it soon so we can start having fun again.
    By: Anonymous on 8/26/08
    Here we go again with the whining..Anyone with any brain-power knows that Nuclear Power is the only answer at this time to our energy needs…and no one has ever been killed in any Nuclear Power Plant accident of any kind in the US..Its much safer to work in or live around a nuclear power plant than to be a passenger in Senetor Edward Kennedy's vehicle.
    By: Anonymous on 8/26/08
    And France's nuclear industry has had a spate of problems recently, described in this BusinessWeek article.

    (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down

Comments are closed.