NRC on Diablo nuclear safety

June 20, 2011

Officials from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission informed Santa Barbara County Supervisors June 16 that Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant is operated safely and is not a threat. [SantaBarbaraIndependent]

Assurances were offered after inspections were made of nuclear power plants throughout the U.S., including two reviews at Diablo, in the wake of the nuclear disaster that disabled six reactors in Fukushima, Japan, in March.

Overall, the inspections showed “no safety-significant issues, Anton Vegel, director of Region IV Division of Reactor Safety, told the board. In the event of a 7.5 earthquake, the largest that federal regulators say is possible near the power plant, Vegel said: “We have the resources and procedures to safely shut down.”

Several Santa Barbara County supervisors expressed skepticism over the report and whether the NRC keeps enough distance from the industry to fully protect the public’s safety.

They pointed out that a nuclear accident at the Diablo power plant, some 100 miles away, could have major consequences from the fallout of airborne radiation, threatening crops, property values, health and tourism.

Concerns about the plant were fueled by the 2008 discovery of a new fault line—the Shoreline Fault—only 300 yards off the coast from the site, as well as PG & E’s plans to re-license two reactors.

Critics, including Republican state Sen. Sam Blakeslee, would like a seismic study to be completed before regulators consider re-licensing the plant.

Until the recent nuclear disaster in Japan, the NRC has maintained that re-licensing should proceed independently of a seismic study. The agency now said it will wait until the seismic study is completed before giving any final recommendations on re-licensing.

Santa Barbara supervisors, meanwhile, voted to send letters to the NRC and PG&E arguing for the completion of the new seismic study before proceeding with re-licensing application.

Meanwhile, PG&E plans to reduce the amount of spent fuel stored at the Diablo nuclear facility, according to the Tribune.

Spent fuel at the Fukushima plant contributed to the crisis that followed Japan’s devastating tsunami that swept through the area.

While regulators note that a natural disaster of that magnitude is unlikely at Diablo, nuclear watchdog and safety groups nonetheless would like to see the waste transferred to dry-cask storage. Diablo Canyon stores 81 percent of its spent fuel on site in pools.

While dry cask storage is considered less risky, the NRC maintains that pools are safe and pose no pressing safety or security threats that would require immediate transfer of the nuclear waste.



PG&E has no plans to reduce the amount of highly-radioactive nuclear waste (spent fuel), they are merely stepping up the transfer of the waste to on-site dry cask storage


The NRC evolved from the original cheer-leaders pushing for nukes to be used for energy. ‘Clean, safe, too cheap to meter.” It’s hard to believe that the NRC, whoever is running the govt’, will ever be appropriately critical of their baby.

Por ejemplo:

The day before the earthquake & tidal wave that damaged the Fukushima Plant, the NRC approved a 20-year extension for the license of Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant. This, despite the Vermont state legislature voting to deny an extension.

The Vermont nuke plant had previously been found to be leaking radioactive substances through underground pipes, which the plant operators, Entergy, had denied (under oath) even existed.

The chairman of the Vermont House Natural Resources and Energy Committee asked the NRC about the contaminated pipes at a hearing in 2009 and the NRC admitted didn’t even know they existed.[10]

March 2011, the Union of Concerned Scientists released a study critical of the NRC’s 2010 performance as a ‘regulator’. The UCS said that over the years, it had found the NRC’s enforcement of safety rules has not been “timely, consistent, or effective” and it cited 14 “near-misses” at U.S. plants in 2010 alone.


“*The plant had a single diesel-driven pump to provide emergency cooling water to a single reactor in case an earthquake cut off normal water flow. The pump could not have serviced both of the plant’s reactors if they lost normal water supply simultaneously, the NRC staff saidThe plant had a single diesel-driven pump to provide emergency cooling water to a single reactor in case an earthquake cut off normal water flow. The pump could not have serviced both of the plant’s reactors if they lost normal water supply simultaneously, the NRC staff said.

*PG&E planned for a contractor to provide seawater for emergency cooling, but had no backup plan if an earthquake and tsunami blocked highways to the plant. PG&E intended to rely on the California National Guard to deliver diesel fuel for emergency generators if roads were impassable, but had no memorandum of understanding in place for the deliveries.”

I would like to know if these along with the other issues were fixed? Or did PG&E lobbyists get something else fixed ie the NRC? I wonder how many politicians have received contributions from PG&E? If PG&E didn’t care enough in the first place to even have these issues how can we trust them? Who do we trust? Do we trust the big corp or do we trust the politicans paid off by the big corps?


PG&E would first have to figure out a way to get the CA Nat’l Guard out of Afghanistan if they’re thinking of having them deliver fuel here. Good luck with that.


If the NRC said “Diablo is a timebomb, waiting to go off on the next misty day,” the anti-nukleheads would comment the agency on its impartiality and vision.

If the NRC says “It looks like a safe, well-run operation,” the opposers cry foul.

There’s a word for this conundrum, something like cognitive bias. Where “sources” that agree with your bias/agenda are smart and true. And sources that do not confirm you bias are liars, polygamists, cheaters and republicans.


Of course, that characterization works equally well when applied to the “common-sense” crowd.


A clean bill of health from the NRC doesn’t seem to mean that a plant is safe. Please read this article on AP posted today.


Hold the phone! Wasn’t there a recent report that showed some major issues at the plant, plus it’s not operating safely until the seismic study is done.


Exactly what I was wondering. Almost. Similarly, anyway. I read that other article about the “issues” they found, and was wondering, “are these serious? Or just a bunch of bureaucrats justifying their existence by “finding” things…?” – I honestly didn’t know at the time.

Your point is well taken, typo, regardless of where one is on the issue. It completely calls into question the effectiveness of this agency.


r0y: I don’t normally agree with most of what you post here, but you have hit a few nails directly on the head; you are correct that IF something goes wrong that no one will be held personally responsible or accountable, but also P.G. & E. will NOT be held accountable for ANY financial woes due to the fact that the federal government (that means the US taxpayer) is in effect the insurance carrier for any problems that do come up with the operation of any and all nuclear power plants operated in the US because no insurance company would sell or hold any policies for the nuclear industry. As for a government agency green lighting a continued revenue stream, if anyone thinks that our government agencies are in place to protect the interests of the average citizen over the interests of big business, you need to wake up now. And as to the feasibility of launching our nuclear waste (nuclear waste may be generated by private industry, but since the government has final oversight, it is OUR nuclear waste) into the sun, that too would be done by private industry with no indemnification provided by the insurance industry by again, underwritten by our government and those costs too will be passed on to the consumer since no corporation will ever do anything to reduce their profits by paying for stuff like this out of their obligation to their shareholders and board of directors.


No system designed by man is foolproof!


Even if something went wrong during an earthquake or other large disaster, it’s not like anyone is going to be personally responsible or held accountable, right?

So a governing agency green-lights the continued revenue stream. Got it.

Hey, and I’m OK with nuclear; I’d just like the waste launched toward the sun…


“…I’d just like the waste launched toward the sun…” Great sound bite, but wholly unrealistic.

You want to get the economy cranking again in this country? Invest on infrastructure. 100 Billion X 2 to build a reprocessing plant on each coast to handle all of our nuclear waste. 500 Billion to build 2 new nuclear power generators per state. 1 conventional, 1 designed to use reprocessed nuclear fuel. Keep reprocessing the fuel and reusing it until you have a mere fraction of what we have now. Then spend another 200 Billion finishing off the storage site in Nevada that Harry Reid has blocked. Imagine how many jobs would be created in building 100 nuclear reactors. Everything from mining raw materials to educating new physics majors in universities. If France can do it, we can do it better.

This would provide the infrastructure to start changing our current vehicle fleet over to electric.

I’m betting my 900 Billion plan would create a whole lot more jobs compared to the last 900 Billion stimulus plan.