Diablo Canyon under fire for lack of current risk assessment

May 30, 2012

Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant in Avila beach  hasn’t done a comprehensive risk assessment of their plants’ vulnerabilities to earthquakes for nearly two decades, according to a Government Accountability Office report released yesterday. [CaliforniaWatch]

The GAO said PG&E hasn’t updated its seismic risk analysis for its nuclear power plant since 1988. Similarly, Southern California Edison, operator of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station hasn’t done a comprehensive seismic analysis since 1995, the report said.

The GAO report criticized the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for not requiring more stringent risk assessments for nuclear plants, especially in the aftermath of last year’s magnitude-9.0 Fukushima quake. The report also noted that both the Diablo Canyon and San Onofre plants can withstand a 7.0-plus-magnitude quake.

The GAO report said most of the 25 utilities that operate the 65 U.S. nuclear plants haven’t used comprehensive risk analysis since getting their licenses to operate, in some cases as much as 40 years ago. An August 2011 5.8-magnitude earthquake in Virginia damaged a Dominion-operated plant after violent shaking exceeded industry standards, California Watch said.

The report also noted that many nuclear operators, including PG&E, are in the process of renewing their licenses for another 20 years, and the regulatory commission still hasn’t ruled whether comprehensive risk analysis should be part of the renewal application, California Watch said.

“There is simply no excuse for the NRC’s failure to require the most up-to-date methods to assess the threat posed by natural disasters, such as earthquakes, to our nuclear power plants,” said U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who leads the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and called for the report in February. “While the NRC has agreed to study the issue, action is needed now to ensure that standards are in place that best protect the health and safety of the American public.”

PG&E asked the commission last year to delay its renewal of its operating license for Diablo Canyon until it conducts more seismic tests.



  1. R.Hodin says:

    This article is a pretty thin hit piece on Diablo.

    Boxer & Markley’s efforts are directed industry-wide, and would include natural events such as last summer’s flood which placed a plant at risk. I sincerely doubt if all U.S. plants have anything close to the level of analysis which Diablo has had to prepare, regarding natural event scenarios, because the owners were so idiotic to build it and keep operating it on multiple fault lines. We pay daily for their mistakes in judgement.

    Diablo Canyon’s current probabilistic risk analysis (for natural events) is expected to be improved based on the earthquake data now being collected, but the take-away from this issue should be that, on the eve of Commissioner Jaczko’s resignation, there is no one on the NRC who is a strong advocate for reviewing U.S. nuclear plant safety in the aftermath of the Fukushima catastrophe. This GAO report is all there is, other than the continuing reminder of high ocean radiation levels, and the models being refined at Diablo (by Sam Blakeslee’s law, not by PG&E’s choice) to keep the NRC and the industry seriously committed to reducing risk due to natural events.

    (1) 1 Total Votes - 1 up - 0 down
  2. Cicero says:

    While the GAO was right to urge the nuclear power Providers to bring their measures for protecting the public and their plants up to date; the recommendation comes well after PG&E has studies and testing to do just that well under way. PG&E should be praise for being ahead of the rest of the industry. Has anyone looked at the puplicly available safty record for nuclear plants? Diabolic Canyon has one of the safest opperating records in the nation: far better than most.

    (1) 5 Total Votes - 3 up - 2 down
  3. rogerfreberg says:

    oh please,

    I am sure that the Mothers-for-Peas have got all this figured out with their advanced high school educations. It amazes me how anybody who hasn’t taken a basic science class can offer an opinion.

    It seems to me that staring at your magic crystals and talking to your former lives doesn’t really prepare you for this sort of analysis. Life is full of risks… nothing can be reduced to zero.

    Personally, I think it is far more likely that someone might drop and e.m. pulse on me and throw us back to the dark ages, maybe I’ll get eaten by a great white or father a child with Lady Gaga than any of these dark Diablo scenarios.

    If you want to worry… take a look at where all the environmental crazies have taken us?

    (-2) 12 Total Votes - 5 up - 7 down
    • R.Hodin says:

      Here’s some food for thought.

      None of the risk analyses done for the nuclear industry include the human component — the “oops” factor.
      Yet, all of the disasters up to Fukushima were caused by human error. Why would the industry or it’s watchdog want to exclude the risk factor of human error?

      That’s why “The Simpsons” cartoon is closer to reality than the prognostications from all those industry scientists with “advanced … educations”

      If you want to see another set of great examples of the benefits of a higher education, just wait a few months for the industry reasoning in the anti-GMO labeling campaign ads and articles.

      (3) 5 Total Votes - 4 up - 1 down
    • OnTheOtherHand says:

      I gave you a thumbs down Roger — not because you are wrong on your basic point about relative danger but because you seem to think that opposition is limited to those with no knowledge of science and a kind of “cause du jour” mentaility. Diablo does have some question marks about both earthquake safety and dealing with human-based problems. They may not be critical but we won’t know until we actually check them out.

      I have known people who worked there and respected them. But sometimes corporate greed can override safety via cuts in staffing or other means of enhancing profits. I would feel less worried by that if nuclear plants weren’t exempted from financial liability in case of a major accident.

      By the way, in my opinion, a dark Diablo scenario is more likely to occur than you (or me) fathering a child with Lady Gaga. (I’ll give you the other two probabilities.)

      (2) 4 Total Votes - 3 up - 1 down
  4. Slowerfaster says:

    The other. more odds-on-favorite answer is that PGE KNOWS that dangers and risks of a major quake and the damages involved at DC and are HIDING the findings. just like they tried to hide the Hexavalent Chromium poisinings associated with the Erin Brokovich lawsuits .
    Why would any sane person accept the word of LIARS at PG&E ever ?

    Corporate swill that should have to swim in their own radiocative excremant !

    (0) 12 Total Votes - 6 up - 6 down
    • bobfromsanluis says:

      I was ready to give you a “like” click until the last sentence. I do agree that the corporate think that PG&E usually uses is a prime example of thinking of the profit motive above all else, but I really think there needs to be criminal charges available for corporate officers when a corporate decision results in needless death and destruction, like in San Bruno in PG&E’s case, or in the Gulf in the case of BP. Corporate criminals might be a more apt description, and serving actual prison time would be, IMO, the desired outcome.

      (-1) 1 Total Votes - 0 up - 1 down
  5. bobfromsanluis says:

    Given the advanced capabilities of todays best computers, modeling behavior of known structures such as Diablo Canyon should be something that is possible to do. I’m sure that doing computer modeling like what is being asked isn’t cheap, but damn, PG&E has a lot of money; get it done already. Or does PG&E fear that possibly the modeling will show that the plant may fail, really badly? Public safety should always take priority over private profits; if the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant cannot be shown to withstand what could be thrown at it, perhaps it is time to consider shuttering the plant. As local citizens who stand to lose the most if there ever is a major problem at the plant, we deserve to know what the plant can stand up to.

    (4) 8 Total Votes - 6 up - 2 down
  6. scoopone says:

    Who in the world can estimate what type/strength earthquake that Diablo Canyon can withstand…I
    don’t believe it’s possible and only when a major shaker strikes Diablo will we find out.

    (-1) 11 Total Votes - 5 up - 6 down

Comments are closed.