NRC inspects Diablo Canyon nuclear plant
May 27, 2011
Following the accident on March 11 at the Fukushima Diaichi Nuclear Site in Japan the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) decided to assess the capabilities of the nation’s 104 nuclear power plants to respond to severe events. We looked at the possible impact of fires and flooding in combination with earthquakes following major losses of plant equipment and off-site power.
The comprehensive inspections NRC undertook were a prudent response to the most significant nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986. It is the action of an independent regulator that continually asks probing questions of itself as well as its licensees and continually searches for ways to improve nuclear power plant safety.
We did identify some areas for improvement at Diablo Canyon and Pacific Gas & Electric has indicated they will take appropriate actions to correct deficiencies. But largely overlooked amid the flurry of news reports was the fact that overall, none of the findings are significant enough to undermine our confidence in the ability of Diablo Canyon and other plants to respond to catastrophic accidents. We found a high level of preparedness and strong capability in terms of equipment and procedures to respond to severe events. Licensees have taken corrective actions and further NRC inspections are planned.
The NRC is an independent regulatory agency respected around the world for its high standards and low threshold for concern. Our inspection process is designed to identify problems long before they become safety significant. Jane Swanson of Mothers for Peace has noted that the NRC has identified many inspection findings at Diablo Canyon. This is true. But it is important to note that all of these findings had very low safety significance.
At our June 15 public meeting scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at the Embassy Suites Hotel, in San Luis Obispo, NRC staff will brief the public on the plant’s 2010 safety performance. Overall, Diablo Canyon operated safely during 2010 and is doing so now.
PG&E has made progress in addressing the human performance issues identified by the NRC during its rigorous inspections.
However, more progress needs to be made in addressing issues involving problem identification and resolution. NRC intends to conduct focused inspections in this area to ensure that occurs. We invite interested members of the community to attend our June 15 meeting to discuss these issues and meet face-to-face with NRC with staff.
Victor Dricks is the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Region IV Senior Public Affairs Officer.