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.