NRC: Diablo explosion was ‘catastrophic failure’

August 21, 2008

By KAREN VELIE

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 UncoveredSLO.com. “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.”


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Stefan

By: Anonymous on 8/22/08

Anonymous says:


This is a big deal because Dave Congalton and the tin hat wearers say it is. The plant should be shut down and sold to Southern Calif developers with the profits given to "the mothers of peace"


That is the best post I have ever seen here! Way to go!


By: Anonymous on 8/22/08

Hey, speaking of useless shills, look below me….

By: Anonymous on 8/22/08

Sharon Payne from PG&E will be on my show tonight at 6:05 to respond to Jane Swanson and Karen Velie/

By: Anonymous on 8/22/08

they shut it down on account thet saw the movie, you know, the hanoi jane movie from the smokin 70's

By: Anonymous on 8/22/08

Why did they have to shut down a nuclear reactor? What part of this incident would cause them to take such an action? Just being cautious? I thought this was a "no big deal" incident?

By: Anonymous on 8/22/08

a simple industrial accident…

that blew shrapnel like an ied in iraq

that required shutting down a nuclear reactor.


I simply laugh at pge and their shills


we were sold a white elephant long ago

and need to continually clean up behind it.


thanks mothers for keeping it real.

By: Anonymous on 8/22/08

As a citizen I expect to be informed by PG&E spokes people when there is an incident. I don't appreciate having an incident "white washed". I don't appreciate denials about explosions. This leads to mistrust. The public aren't children and I resent the condescending posture of PG&E.

By: Anonymous on 8/22/08

Long ago, transformers were cooled by PCB's. When one failed, there was no fire. Then

the eco-government banned PCB's,

and the transformer people had to go back to the inflammable coolants.


As for explosions, the distribution transformer on the block where I live blew at

3AM, with quite a bang. The oil soaked a small car parked

below. Whee!


Stefan

By: Anonymous on 8/22/08

Again: A transformer has NOTHING to do with the power plant operation. It's like saying Santa Margarita Lake Dam is going to fail or is in danger because the supply pipe half way to the SLO water plant ruptured. Apples and Oranges!

By: Anonymous on 8/22/08

Right you are, Harpo. And about the only hope for stations like Diablo to become economically justifiable is with the implementation of carbon trading/tax scheme in which the externalities of fossil fuel plants are priced into their power. So, the only hope for nuclear power may be in the hands of the "eco-Marxists."

By: Anonymous on 8/22/08

This is a big deal because Dave Congalton and the tin hat wearers say it is. The plant should be shut down and sold to Southern Calif developers with the profits given to "the mothers of peace"

By: Anonymous on 8/22/08

The issue is not what was told to the NRC in its report. The issue is what Diable/PG&E chose to say to the public. They kept it as a "fire," deliberately downplaying the extent of the damage.

By: Anonymous on 8/22/08

I am a RR ( Redneck Repulican ),I don't think Dave is a commie, Mother's for Peace is ok and I'm very curious about the PG&E incident. OK, something blew and what if this same something blew at a fossil fuel plant? Would it be a big deal? Transformers blow all the time and just how close to the plant or in the plant matters to NRC public safety. Was this a plant control source or un-related to the Nuke Vessel? These are the questions that should be asked not wasting time on smoke screens from the mouth or maybe PG&E should just shut down until the discussions are over? Atleast we could reason with our eyes wide open, in the dark.

By: Anonymous on 8/22/08

Fortunately some commenters are self-parodying.


Since Diablo Canyon can't be justified on strict capitalist return-on-investment grounds, it's a monument to a kind of Marxism itself. And in the unlikely event of a significant radiation discharge, the private sector would not be footing the bill for the evacuation and clean-up. We can leave out any discussion of the minor impact on the practice of free enterprise in the fallout zone.


And the former Marxists running China are having to contend with a new trend, the enforcement of environmental law, which most Chinese people welcome. So, "eco-marxist" is a pretty confused label these days.

By: Anonymous on 8/22/08

ouch!

By: Anonymous on 8/22/08

Everyone got it. No one thought it funny.

By: Anonymous on 8/22/08

the "mothers of piece" comment was a parody….the misspelling of peace and the reference to walking the streets.


Some levity was needed, but no one was home


Stefan

By: Anonymous on 8/22/08

The report leaves out the explosion, the damage to other buildings, the seriousness off the event. PG$E spokespeople also claimed there was no explosion or damage to other buildings.


Report summary:

""To summarize, on August 16, 2008, at 2356 PDT, the 'C' phase 500 Kv transformer failed resulting in a fire and an automatic reactor trip, and automatic actuation of AFW. An unusual event was declared on August 17, 2008, at 0012 PDT due to the fire. Cal Fire was called to assist and support the on-site fire brigade. The fire was extinguished and the NUE was downgraded at 0231 PDT."


The NRC Resident Inspector has been notified as well as State and local government agencies. The licensee intends to issue a press release."

By: Anonymous on 8/22/08

What should concern 'us' more is the preceding report from UC Berkley. "…they were unable to locate 17 grams of elemental uranium enriched to 43% in the isotope of U 235. "

By: Anonymous on 8/22/08

Ya….And?


!!!!! THIS EVENT HAS BEEN RETRACTED. THIS EVENT HAS BEEN RETRACTED !!!!!

Power Reactor Event Number: 44421

Facility: DIABLO CANYON

Region: 4 State: CA

Unit: [ ] [2] [ ]

RX Type: [1] W-4-LP,[2] W-4-LP

NRC Notified By: DAN PHILLIPS

HQ OPS Officer: DAN LIVERMORE Notification Date: 08/19/2008

Notification Time: 11:30 [ET]

Event Date: 08/19/2008

Event Time: 06:10 [PDT]

Last Update Date: 08/20/2008

Emergency Class: NON EMERGENCY

10 CFR Section:

26.719 – FITNESS FOR DUTY

Person (Organization):

VINCENT GADDY (R4)


Unit SCRAM Code RX CRIT Initial PWR Initial RX Mode Current PWR Current RX Mode

2 N N 0 Cold Shutdown 0 Cold Shutdown


Event Text

FITNESS FOR DUTY


A non-licensed PG&E employee was inattentive to his responsibilities, and was relieved of his duties. Contact the Headquarters Operations Officer for additional details.


The licensee has notified the NRC Resident Inspector.


* * * RETRACTION FROM T. GRAF TO V. KLCO AT 1232 EDT ON 8/20/08 * * *


" After review of the circumstances and Reg. Guide 5.62, the licensee believes the event is loggable."


The licensee will notify the NRC Resident Inspector. Notified R4DO (Gaddy).


Stefan

By: Anonymous on 8/22/08

After reading the NRC report of the incident that was reported to the NRC, can someone please point out to me where the lies are in the report. Please follow the time line of the report and everything is there as to what happened. If you follow the Trib/U-Slo/Swanson account, you are only getting half the story…GO TO THE NRC REPORT which are available for all and every event that happens at the plant. Please do not fly off with rumors and half truths if you are too lazy to do your own investigating.

By: Anonymous on 8/22/08

I agree with what Congalton kept saying on the radio tonight. The issue in all this comes down to "What did PG&E know and when did they know it?"


After listening to Ms. Swanson, it seems that Diablo management decided to downplay the accident to not alarm people. But this is blowing up in their faces. They need to be honest and forthright with people.

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

"They didn't lie?" They said the fire was out in 13 no 20 no 35 minutes. They claim no explosion occurred and that no buildings were damaged. This isn't about nuclear power, this is about honesty. Well I guess it what you consider acceptable spin.

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

Oh also note, that since PG&E fired/laid-off/retired skilled workers and hired 'contractors' they are not going to end up BEING responsible, like Chevron, they will blame it on a sub contractor or 'contractor error'. Too bad Greka didn't learn this trick sooner.


Stefan

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

Oh boo-hoo-hoo Transformers fail all the time. This one happened in a sensitive area, the didn't LIE, they just didn't blow the FACTS up. Sure, this was what is generically called an OH $hit moment in industrial risk management. Transformers fail at hydro, solar and coal energy facilities too. They fail at sub stations and meter points, transformers fail underground and on poles. It could have happened ANYWHERE. So, if it happened on Friday the 13'th who would you or 'Mothers for themselves' blame ? Oh wait, I hear failure in the wind….Must be Cindy Sheehan…..

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

France's nuclear industry is often cited as being sleek and safe, but lately they've seen a raft of problems, as summarized in this BusinessWeek article. That this coincides with recent renewed interest in nuclear power is almost funny. Japan's nuclear industry has a pretty sorry history.


But this video of Diablo's recent unanticipated transformer modulation should put our minds at ease.


I'd love to believe that nuclear is a good way to reduce carbon emissions, and there are some interesting new technologies in reprocessing spent fuel and safer reactor designs. But current power stations just seem too complex to be made Homer Simpson-proof. The defensiveness of our local Diablo workers is also disappointing: say anything even slightly unflattering about the plant (even about its being uneconomical), and they act very wounded.

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

Is it possible for people to stay on topic. It seems like people are so angry with Hedges that they just have to bring him up every time something makes us angry. Maybe Karen & Dan could put up a special thread for us to rant about Hedges when we are angry about something. Please don't minimize or undermine the concerns about this issue.

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

Diablo also had an explosion at the same time as the fire and that is just the fact.

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

Explosions are classified as either mechanical or chemical. Some explosions are a both. A mechanical explosion occurs when pressure builds in a vessel until the vessel ruptures. Chemical exposions occur when a chemical compound burns at a high rate of speed. These include dynamite, plastic explosive, and TNT.


A transformer explosion occurs when the oil heats becomes a vapor, and catches fire. This is all contained in the transformer vessel until the vessel rutures or vents. So in effect both stories are correct. They had a transformer fire that caused the containment vessel to fail catostrophically.

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

The Mothers of Peace are on the radio. They were on 920 KVEC Dave Congalton Talk Show for over an hour tonight.

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

The siren test just makes me feel so safe.

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

I want to know where the mothers of piece are on this. They should at least be walking the streets in protest

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

I care about the problems we all have with Hedges and his bankrupt mentality but this issue is important to a lot of us. Please try to stay on topic.

And yes.. whos to blame post was still funny.


Stefan

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

I just read that PG&E along with the County Office of Emergency Services is conducting a Warning System Siren Test on Saturday Aug 23rd at 12 noon.


Oh Gee you do love us … You really do !!!!

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

If you want others to care about your issues, don't minimize ours.

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

Its obvious that PG&E covered up the truth about the explosion. They said it was a small fire. There is actually damage to two buildings there. Where the hell is the Tribune? Lost in space as usual.

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

How invigorating it must have been to be near "a very energetic event". Good to know that we have civilized physics.

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

If they lie to the public about this I'm afraid to think of what else they would lie about. Obviously everything.

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

Sounds like it might not have been a transformer.

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

What really exploded like that? I want to know if it's true that the transformer is still standing.

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

If the PG&E lied to us about this then, what else have they been lying to us about?

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

The big story is not Diablo Canyon, but that PG&E LIED to all of us!

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

That they lie is no surprise.

30 yrs. of electricity and 10,000 yrs. of radioactive waste. Billions in subsidies just to get one built. Right

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

So if the transformer is still standing then we don't have the truth yet. They are still lying.

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

If the transformer is still standing then what exploded and where did the shrap metal come from that hit the other two buildings?

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

Two buildings were damaged due to the explosion. I do think the media would have reported that or do you think Tribune didn't want to give all the facts? Give me a break.

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

I bet Goossens & Hedges love this story.


Stefan

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

This is very disturbing news.


I am a proponent of nuclear energy but due to the inherent dangers associated with nuclear power there must be ample safeguards, checks and balances to assure maximum adherence to the rules of safety.


One of the obvious safeguards is a public information system that tells the complete truth and doesnt try to sugarcoat or downplay problems, particularly serious problems of the magnitude reported.


To a degree, it appears that we are dealing with a coverup and this cannot be tolerated. Whoever tried to do damage control by minimizing the seriousness of this event needs to be called on the carpet. If there are any punitive actions that are approprite and can be taken … let's roll !


PS: Where is the Tribune and other news media? Why is the only media that acts in the interest of the good people of SLO Co, Uncoveredslo.com?


If it were not for this website massively important stories would go unreported.


I'm done with the Tribunes happy news.


Keep up your good work Uncoveredslo. Tons of us appreciate it!

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

Okay first, Diablo Canyon reports to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).


Second, what I heard the spokesperson say was that they they characterized the event as a fire in their original report to the NRC.


By the way, this is true…it was a fire. I saw the photos of the scene on KSBY – the transformer that caught fire is still standing. If it exploded there wouldn't be a transformer to see, now, would there?


And OF COURSE when they first reported the event they couldn't report any damage…there was still a fire going on. First things first people!


The company reported the event right away, they announced it with a press release, they took media out to the site…what do you think they're hiding?

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

The safety precautions might have been in place but they did not work- dah. Read the story and read the PG&E statements. It took U-SLO to chase them down and get the truth. The explosion wasn't contained and stop trying to give us all a bunch of bullshit about it.

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

At least refer to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission as the "NRC." Using NRA makes your comment moot as you don't have a clue what you are saying.

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

The transformer had nothing to do with the actual energy producing operation at the plant. Transformers are in a transformer yard, well away from the reactor. When a transformer fails, heat is produced, coolant ignites and it blows up, explodes or catches on fire. It happens. Call it what you like, the safety precautions were in place and worked. The lefties are so caught up in decades old 3 mile island and Chernobal hysteria that they can't see straight. Both of the above were caused by operator error. Training, operation simulators and other safety precautions are in place to avoid catastrophic problems. Nuclear plants are 90% of France's electric supply, much of Europe relies heavily on them. Modern plants (and modernized) plants are safe, efficient producers of the stuff that is operating your computer. We need more wind, hydro and nuclear plants!


Stefan

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

It's not about if anyone was injured. Its about the typical lying about the extent of their "screw ups". The transformer failsafe containment didn't work. Thats why the fire was so large and the explosion damaged two buildings. Whats your problem?

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

This is a good true story about a big lie of a story. Thank You for keeping the public informed.

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

Give the names of who was injured. That's right, none.

2500 people worldwide die mining coal every year.

Nice lib alarmist aggitator story though.


By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

There should be a BIG FINE for lying to the press and the public. and a triple fine for lying to the NRA (if they did lie to the NRA). There is no question that they lied to the public.

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

The PG&E spokes people clearly went on the news and said there was NO EXPLOSION. I'm really pissed off. They also lied in their reports to the NRA. This is just bullshit. Who do they think they are? What right do they have to build such a dangerous facility and then lie every time something goes wrong?

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

I am in favor of nuclear. However, I want to be fully informed of problems. If you have nothing to hide, why not tell the whole truth.

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

I heard the PG&E spokesperson on the radio news denying that this was an explosion.


Really gives me a lot of confidence in the quality of information they're disbursing.

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

Let's look at the facts – the transformer that failed/exploded was not near the reactor. The reactor is shielded by very thick reinforced concrete. There was no danger to the reactor at any time.


Was this a serious situation? Yes. Fires always are.


Was it dealt with quickly and without injuries or putting the public in danger? Yes.


Transformers are all around us. There are transformers at every power generating station (solar, wind, hydro, natural gas, and nuclear); there are transformers in our neighborhoods on pads and on poles. Transformers are filled with oil and when there's a fire that's what burns.


No matter when this happened it was a serious situation, but the fire was put out quickly and both the NRC and the comapny are conducting investigations to find out what caused it. Nobody wants something like this to happen, not you, not me, not the NRC, and certainly not the people at Diablo Canyon! THAT'S why everyone will be looking into this so carefully! We have to keep in mind that this was not a nuclear event.


Stefan

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

Martin Polin had the right idea when he left some valuable donations to Atascadero and blew town. He always said it was just a matter of time with Diablo. The day is coming .

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

If you don't get this then you should get a job there. Then you can tell us all how it was all a common event.

P.S. Apply for the night crew

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

Did those transformers blow up to the extent that they sent debris flying into other buildings? Go figure….

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

Transformer fires are common. Though at nuke plants they are usually contained. If this was an every day event, you would hear of deaths at the plants. Or do they only fail in the evening?

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

The biggest story here is that PG&E LIED with their report to the NRA and the Public. They made it sound like a little fire not an explosion that damaged two outside buildings.

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

Are you all really this stupid, a transformer caught fire just like the one several weeks ago on LOVR and the other 1,890 Nation wide every year. get a life.

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

They should shut down all the reactors. Permanently.

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

When a transformer does that kind of damage it means that there was a secondary failure. That sort of result during an explosion in a Nuke Plant is a catastrophe.

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

Its only by shear luck that it happened when no one was around. Sounds like PG&E played this one down.

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

This is a big hairy deal. When a transformer manages to damage two separate near by buildings

blowing shrap metal through them its a big deal. Now consider that it happend in a nuclear power plant! Yes transformers blow up but the fire and debris projectiles are supposed to be contained.

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

This was a simple industrial accident. The only reason it's getting any play in the press is because it happened at a nuclear facility. As far as I'm concerned, since no one was injured, it's pretty much a non-issue. I really hate how Mothers for Peace always jumps on any negative press about Diablo in order to bolster their loony agenda.


Nukes are here to stay. Get used to it!

By: Anonymous on 8/21/08

Thank you, Karen Velie and UcoveredSLO for this report. Both workers at the plant and the general pubic need to know the nature of this fire, and later the causes and how the NRC and PG&E plan to prevent future fires. The fact that a burning transformer is a common event does not make it acceptable!


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