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Diablo was designed in the 60’s and was out of date by the time it began operations in the mid-80s.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:

No Diablo!

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

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There’s a video where Jim Becker (PG&E Vice President, and DCPP site director) explains the situation that led to the alert being declared. You can watch it at http://diablocanyonpge.com/jim-beckerexplains-what-happened-to-cause-the-alert

He’s a smart and reasonable guy, and I think that comes across well in the video. Knowing that he’s the one running the show has always made me very comfortable.

Mothers for Peace has been against nuclear power from the very beginning. It wouldn’t matter if PG&E was built yesterday, they would always find something wrong with it. Considering the alternative, perhaps solar power on a foggy day, I’ll take nuclear.

What do you think they do on their scheduled shut downs? Sit around and eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Scheduled maintenance means just that. Things are changed out, at specific intervals. They don’t wait until something breaks before fixing it. Their maintenance costs millions of dollars, all in the name of safety!

Let’s see for an event were no one was hurt, or exposed to radiation you believe that Diablo Canyon should be closed. If release of carbonmoxide is so bad let’s get rid if all cars, natural gas appliances, fireplace and habachi’s.

“Note: Help maintain a healthy, respectful discussion by focusing comments on the

issues, topics, and facts at hand—not at other members of the site.” please

Some comments (noise) removed, site issues?send us email.

censorship/freedom of press/speech? participate within teh guidelines or get your own blog.

thank you.

This county cannot afford the economic collapse that would result from closing Diablo and nor will ever be able to. The exodus of head of household wage earners alone would be crushing and the ripple effects to local businesses and the housing market would mean broad reaching pain for all of San Luis Obispo. Mothers for Peace would like see increased violence as a result of the collapsing

local economy if their biased, shortsighted plan were to ever succeed. Nuclear power is a safe and efficient power source. The number of square miles of solar panels necessary to generate the comparable power output would leave the Sierra Club crying! Public safety is essential and the regulators must excell at the tasks but closing the plant will never be the right option. Greater safeguards and quality assurance will allow us all to continue to benefit from Diablo’s place in our community. The events surrounding the recent alert demonstrate that those safeguards are in place and are effective.

While I do work for PG&E at Diablo Canyon, I am not an official company spokesman… so, the following comments are my personal opinions and not necessarily those of PG&E.

Jane Swanson doesn’t like a single thing about Diablo Canyon or PG&E… and will seize upon every tiny incident to try to push her anti-nuclear agenda. Keep in mind that this was the woman who insisted that Diablo Canyon should be shut down because of the 2003 San Simeon earthquake. That really proved how out-of-touch she is… because that earthquake had practically no effect on Diablo Canyon whatsoever. The plant was designed to handle shaking about 20 times stronger than that 6.5 magnitude quake produced. The plant continued to run without incident during and after the quake. A good winter storm causes more challenges to the operation of the plant than that earthquake did. Yet there was Jane Swanson after the quake saying that the quake meant that Diablo Canyon should be immediately shut down. Luckily, much more rational heads prevailed.

Anyway, about the little “alert” a few days ago…

Again, Jane seems to have no clue. A valve in a fire protection system was replaced. To make sure the system worked before returning it to service, it was tested. Well, guess what, the newly installed valve failed. It happens. Whether you’re repairing a car or a VCR or a nuclear power plant, sometimes when you do a repair job you find out during testing that the new part you just installed isn’t working right. So, this valve failed and filled an empty equipment room with carbon dioxide. Not really that big of a deal. That’s the risk you take when you work on a carbon dioxide fire protection system, and that’s why you get everybody out of the room before you test the system. No biggie.

PG&E follows NRC rules to the letter… and since this empty room was full of CO2 and devoid of oxygen, it technically fit the criteria for an event that posed a danger to plant employees. Yeah, a room without oxygen is a danger to plant employees. So, according to the NRC rules, this incident required that an alert be declared. No room for argument. It doesn’t matter that there was absolutely no danger to the public or any reason that the public needed to be “warned” of this dangerous oxygen-deprived room at the plant… the NRC rules called for a declaration of an alert, so that’s what the operators did. They declared an alert. And now Jane Swanson says that this is proof that Diablo should be shut down.

No, Jane, I don’t think so. The plant’s operating just fine.

You know, there are actually two groups of independent experts which have been given the authority to oversee everything Diablo-related and to decide whether the plant is safe to keep operating or not. Those two groups would be the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Diablo Canyon Independent Safety Committee. And both groups are in agreement that there is absolutely nothing going on at Diablo Canyon that would justify shutting it down. Just about the only ones saying that Diablo should be shut down is the Mothers For Peace organization. It only goes to show how biased and out-of-touch with reality they are.

Jane follows Rahm’s mantra of “Never let a crisis go to waste.”

Mothers for Peace is well meaning, but few of us want to return to stone knives and bear skins. Unlike Rousseau, I have no interest in joining the ranks of ‘noble savages’ and the simple life. I like my food cooked and a light on at night to read. I appreciate the pleasures of modern life.

Technology has liberated the world. When asked what one invention has changed all mankind, one country’s president said, “air conditioning.’ Atomic power has it’s risks, but the benefits for a country that wishes to be self sustaining is significant.

I know it is hard for Mothers For Peace to understand how anyone can accept any risks in life, but many of us realize that a life worth living comes with risks. Bike helmets don’t really protect us, local police are stretched too far to really save us and protecting our little boys from fights doesn’t do anything to prepare them for the challenging world ahead.

Weighing everything together, Diablo Canyon is a great benefit to our community and our state… and frankly there are far bigger fish to fry to help save our state. I admire Mothers for Peace for their tenacity and perseverance … but they are more of a hindrance than a help and right now our state needs all the help it can get.

I think you need to change your focus…. you’re beating a dead horse.

I didn’t realize that we could submit our own biased one-sided editorials for publication. What happened to the fair investigative reporting that CCN is famous for? Surely CCN can do better than this.

CCN needs more people participating and less people complaining about what is published .

If you feel you are capable of something better, polish it up and submit it for publication.

operators are standing by.

Bracing off your supporters is an interesting approach, Dave. An article with title, author and photograph has the appearance of the remainder of your site as if it was a regular article. Shame on me for not realizing it was an open opinion that is available for anyone.