What to do about Diablo Canyon?

December 13, 2009


The San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace (MFP) opposes PG&E’s application for 20 year operating license extensions for Diablo Canyon units 1 and 2, filed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on November 23, 2009.

The current operating licenses are in effect until 2024 and 2025, but PG&E is asking permission to extend operations until 2044 and 2045.

Some of the reasons for MFP opposition reiterate the arguments MFP presented as it took all available legal steps to oppose the original operating licenses between the years 1973 and 1985. Others reflect more recent developments.

  • It is contrary to NRC regulations to license a nuclear facility next to an active, major earthquake fault. The NRC “grandfathered” the license for Diablo, buying into PG&E’s excuse that it was unaware of the Hosgri Fault when it first invested billions of ratepayer dollars to building the plant, beginning in the late 1960’s. The Hosgri Fault comes within 3.5 miles of the plant. The NRC is prohibited by its own regulations from taking into account corporate profits rather than public safety, but that is exactly what it did.
  • The newly-discovered Shoreline Fault, less than one mile offshore of the Diablo site, has not been thoroughly studied yet, but it clearly exacerbates an already precarious situation.
  • The Diablo Canyon facility includes two nuclear reactors and the storage of all the high-level radioactive wastes generated by those reactors since 1984. Currently, most of the spent fuel (which is much more radioactive than the fuel in the reactors) is stored in over-crowded pools. A small portion has been transferred to a few of the dry casks. To add another 20 years’ worth of high level wastes would only add to the safety and security problems at Diablo.
  • Diablo is an out-dated and over-priced plant by any measure. Designed in the 1960’s, it has needed constant updating and replacement of defective or worn-out parts. The earthquake bracing for Unit 2 was originally installed in mirror image of the plans and was re-done at huge expense to ratepayers. The steam generators were found to have been defective from the time of purchase, and have been replaced, again at ratepayer expense.
  • All nuclear facilities are categorized as targets of terrorists by the NRC, Homeland Security, and other federal agencies.
  • MFP is currently pursuing a legal challenge in the Ninth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals involving the dry cask storage facility for storing nuclear waste and its vulnerability to terrorist attack, especially from the air.  If the court rules in favor of MFP as it did in 2006, the NRC might be ordered to require PG&E to make design changes. [ Go to mothersforpeace.org for detailed information.]
  • Recent NRC inspection reports on Diablo (August, 2009) indicate that PG&E is not meeting industry standards in its identification and resolutions of problems at Diablo.
  • In late October, 2009, it was discovered that for 18 months the Diablo Canyon plant was run with defective control of some of the valves relied upon to flood the Unit 2 reactor with essential cooling water in the event of a serious accident or sabotage. An investigation by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has been conducted to determine the root cause of this compromise of this failure. Its findings are scheduled to be posted on the NRC website sometime in January, 2010.
  • The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is in the process of determining whether or not continued reliance on nuclear energy is in the best economic interests of the people of California. PG&E’s decision to apply for license extensions 15 years in advance of the expiration of the current licenses raises questions regarding PG&E’s intentions toward the coming CPUC conclusion.
  • Optimistic projections of the availability of uranium fuel supplies show that resource running out in about 2020 – BEFORE the period at stake in the possible Diablo license extensions. [See December 1, 2009 publication of an article by Brian Wang titled “Uranium Supplies are Likely to be Adequate until 2020,” available at www.theoildrum.com/]. Setting aside the safety risks of nuclear power, before asking ratepayers to further invest in Diablo Canyon, PG&E  should present a data-driven case that there will be sufficient Uranium to last until 2045.

The history of Diablo Canyon shows that in terms of safety, security, and economics, it is not in the public interest to add an additional 20 years to the operating life of the two reactors at Diablo Canyon. The only advantage would be to the corporate profits of PG&E. MFP advocates that PG&E instead apply its considerable resources toward establishing itself as a leader in the development of renewable sources of energy.

Jane Swanson is a founding member of the San Luis Obispo-based Mothers for Peace.



  1. Robert1 says:

    you anti nuclear people are the biggest hypocrites of all,you live here and use the power daily,drive autos built with oil production products.If you really want to take a stance go off the human grid and live in a cave.Your food and medicine,water,clothing,etc. is all brought to you complements of fossil fuels and nuclear power.
    Humans will leave their footprints on this earth,if it offends you end your footprint.
    But don’t drive up the cost of energy for the rest of society.

    • cayucosguy says:

      The groups like MFP and SClub try to talk a good story but their facts and actions show their true colors. They say they are for green energy but when you count their actions it is just BS. For example: Nuclear is green and are they for it – NO. Solar energy is green but are they for the three solar plants that are planned for California Valley – NO. The Solar plant planned for the Mojave Desert – NO. Hydroelectric is green and are they for daming up rivers to make Hydro plants – NO Diablo has been working over the past 30 years providing the central coast with clean and cost effective energy. Do we want clean and cost effective energy – NO

      • cayucosguy says:

        One more thing:
        The operating fleet (the nuclear plants across the country) continued to generate power around the clock at near‐record capacity factors in 2009. The capacity factor of a plant is the ratio of electricity actually produced compared to the maximum electricity a power plant can produce operating at full power year‐round. It is an important benchmark for the nuclear energy industry and for other power generating approaches.
        While final 2009 figures are not available, through November the total nuclear fleet capacity factor was 90.5 percent, close to the all‐time record of 91.3 percent set in 2007. A 2007 study from the EIA found other energy sources had lower average capacity factors
        such as:
        • 40.1 percent for renewable (wind and solar)
        • 42.0 percent for natural gas combined cycle
        • 73.6 percent for coal.
        When it comes to keeping the lights on 24/7 the best energy choice is clear.

  2. Vagabond says:

    Terrorist attack from the air? Oh my, seems some thickies don’t have a clue about what keeps an airplane IN the air and just how difficult it is to put said airplane on the ground in an exact spot.
    (Hint, why do you think runways are soooo long?)
    Anyone that want’s to complain about how bad nukes are for the planet can go sit next to a coal fired plant for a while and watch the trainloads of mountain tops getting incinerated.
    PGE has been providing clean energy for the benefit of millions of Californians for over 20 years.
    MFP has only contributed hot air.

  3. Booty JuJu says:

    Moonbats need to face facts: Nuclear waste is very tasty, spreads easily and makes a lovely jam for your toast in the morning, and living next to an atom fuelled power station gives you a huge penis, but only if you are a man already, otherwise you get a more modest member.

    All the scientific evidence shows that people have nothing to fear from having a nuclear power station on their doorstep. They are only dangerous when they blow up and destroy everything around them in a 50 mile radius and then melt down and burn through the earth’s core sending the planet spinning off its axis and destroying the entire human race, but that hardly ever happens.

    North county men folk would rather have cancer of the balls than give up NASCAR on the plasma and their wimmin worry about how they would power their hair straighteners, iPods, second iPods and vibrating eggs.

    • R.Hodin says:

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  4. Jim Zim says:

    Jane Swanson would fight PG&E no matter what they proposed to do. So, it’s no surprise that she would be against a proposal to extend the life of one of California’s most inexpensive sources of carbon-free electricity.

    You gotta laugh a little at some of her arguments! “All nuclear facilities are categorized as targets of terrorists”. Interesting, Jane. So are all chemical factories, government facilities, and quite a few prominent high-rise buildings. Let’s shut them down, too. The fact is that if a terrorist really wanted to do some damage to SLO county, he’d accomplish more by ramming a jetliner in to the completely unprotected ConocoPhillips refinery on the Nipomo mesa than he would by trying anything at Diablo Canyon within its protected cement and steel shell.

    Uranium is going to run out in 2020? Yeah, right, Jane. I understand what you’re doing. It’s called FUD. That means trying to plant Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt in the minds of the people… regardless of the ridiculousness of your claim.

    How about earthquakes? She just LOVES to bring that one up. Hey, Jane! Remember the 6.5 magnitude earthquake on December 22nd of 2003? The one that brought down all those buildings in Paso Robles. Remember how you and your pals got in front of every TV camera you could find that day, and insisted that Diablo had to be immediately shut down because it had been poorly designed and was unsafe in an earthquake and was certainly going to nuke us all if we didn’t do something? Well, let’s review what actually happened at Diablo Canyon that day. A 6.5 magnitude earthquake did absolutely NO damage to the plant at all. Not one thing. Nothing! The plant continued to run flawlessly before, during, and after the quake… and there wasn’t a single piece of equipment that even got a crack in it. Why was that, Jane? Because Diablo Canyon was designed to the highest standards… to withstand earthquakes tremendously larger than that without any damage. In fact, the plant was designed and built so that it could safely operate during an earthquake with shaking 20 times stronger than it received that day. And you wanted to shut it down for that! It’s like if I took you for a ride in my car and we went over a speed bump at 5 mph and you demanded that I immediately pull over to the side of the road, have the car towed to a mechanic, and a complete inspection performed because we hit a little speed bump. Come on, try to understand the engineering involved. This thing is ROCK SOLID.

  5. Booty JuJu says:

    Generate power from the incinerated carcasses of dead hookers for all I care, just do it cheaply and out of my ocean view.

  6. reasonable says:

    fruitcake. I’m glad you’re “for peace” however I’m for having the lights come on when I flip the switch while paying less than $1,000 a month for my power. Unless you’ve found magical unicorn farts that will run power plants of the future, good luck. I simply cannot stand those that advocate for clean power but refuse to pursue all sources of it.

    • mccdave says:

      It’s a complete non-sequitur to say that anyone who uses electricity is disqualified from criticizing the Rube Goldberg contraption that is Diablo Canyon. This is a favorite argument of the Homer Simpsons who operate the plant, and it doesn’t exactly say good things about their brain power and thus doesn’t reassure one about the safety of the plant.

      Reflexive denial of any criticism with ad hominem like “fruitcake” strongly suggests that there really is a problem out there. Nicely done.

    • Goyo says:

      Reasonable, it seems you are implying that nuclear power is ‘clean power.’ If that is the case, if that is what you believe, then you need to learn a lot more, not only about how uranium is mined and prepared for use in nuclear power plants, but also about the radioactive half life of the spent rods that will still be around and dangerous after 1000 generations of human beings, even if there are no earthquakes in that time. There are always problems with the crews being attentive, trained, and professional enough to prevent accidents, in a power plant that is here today. The problems will be exacerbated when the crews are instead guarding nuclear waste from plants that were closed a thousand years earlier. Oh, that’s right. You won’t be here then. It won’t be your problem. How reasonable of you to thing the future stops when you die. Do you have any children.

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