Time to close down Diablo Canyon
June 30, 2010
The June 23 Alert at the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant fits into a years-long pattern showing PG&E’s inability to manage its two aging reactors and the radioactive waste that has been accumulating since 1984.
Diablo was designed in the 60’s and was out of date by the time it began operations in the mid-80s. And as aging components have been replaced, procedures necessary to run the plant safely and in compliance with NRC requirements are constantly changing, leading to confusion and errors.
The public needs to know that violations classified as “non-cited” or “green” nevertheless have implications for safety. Non-cited merely means the problem has been entered into the Corrective Action Program. Green is assigned to problems with the potential for serious safety consequences if the problem did not in fact result in a dangerous situation – i.e. if we are all lucky.
The NRC assigns these problems to PG&E’s Corrective Action Program. But going through the Corrective Action Program does not ensure that any given problem will be resolved permanently; on the contrary, many problems reoccur with alarming regularity.
Examples of mismanagement cited in the NRC Inspection Report covering Jan 1 – March 27, 2010 include the following:
• Failure to effectively implement parts of the Seismic Interaction Program, which is part of the strategy for dealing with a potential 7.5 earthquake on the Hosgri Fault.
• Several violations that “affected the NRC’s ability to perform its regulatory function.” (p 3, paragraphs 1 and 4. p. 4 para 4.)
• Four findings of “crosscutting aspects in the area of problem identification and resolution associated with the corrective action program component”. (p. 1 paragraph 4. p. 2 para 2. p. 4 para 2. p 5 para 5) “Crosscutting” means that the issue cuts across several fundamental areas, such as human performance, problem identification, maintenance or operations. PG&E recognizes the problem, stating in a recent report to the Diablo Canyon Independent Safety Committee that a “Contributing Factor” is that “Cultural norms do not pursue excellece.”
This downward spiral logically leads to two conclusions:
1. PG&E has no business applying for an additional 20 years of operation when it can’t manage its plant now. SLOMFP has therefore begun its legal challenge to oppose license renewal, citing this record of inability to manage the plant. Other issues being pressed include incomplete seismic studies and the vulnerability of the unprotected spent fuel storage pools to earthquake or sabotage.
2. The NRC needs to take steps much more drastic than referring problems to the Corrective Action Program to ensure public safety. Since PG&E is unable to meet the requirements for safe operation at Diablo, the NRC should revoke its current operating license and send the entire management team back to school until it can pass the test to show that it understands and can implement required procedures and regulations.
A citizen group should not have to raise money to try to force the NRC to comply with federal law and to better protect public safety, but that is exactly what Mothers for Peace has been doing for 37 years.
We said it in 1973 when MFP pointed out that Diablo was built next to an active, major earthquake fault. We say it now in the face of ongoing evidence of PG&E’s inability to manage Diablo in compliance with regulations:
Jane Swanson is a founding member of San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace.