Barbara Boxer grills NRC over Diablo Canyon

February 4, 2014


For the second time since November of last year, Senator Barbara Boxer has called upon Chairman Allison Macfarlane of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to explain and clarify how the NRC can allow Pacific Gas & Electric to continue to operate the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in San Luis Obispo in spite of previous determinations that new seismic evidence places the facility out of compliance with the parameters of its original licensing design basis.

SENATOR BOXER: Chairman Mafarlane, are these statements accurate? One, NRC’s former resident inspector for Diablo Canyon filed a formal dissent saying Diablo was operating outside the seismic requirements of its license. Is that accurate?

CHAIRMAN MACFARLANE: I believe that the senior resident in years past did file a non-concurrence.

SENATOR BOXER: You believe that is correct then?

CHAIRMAN MACFARLANE: I believe that is correct.

SENATOR BOXER: He also said that PG&E’s own analysis showed that the newly discovered faults could cause ground shaking that was 70 percent stronger than the NRC license allows. Is that correct?

CHAIRMAN MACFARLANE: I would have to look. I’m do not have that with me.

SENATOR BOXER: Would you get back to me?

CHAIRMAN MACFARLANE: I will take that for the record.

SENATOR BOXER: OK, I have a number of other questions I want to ask about that for the record so I’ll ask all those.

That NRC Chairman Macfarlane appears unfamiliar with the seismic situation at Diablo Canyon is surprising. In November, she was presented with a copy of a paper from the Union of Concerned Scientists–UCS–(author: David Lochbaum) entitled, “Seismic Shift: Diablo Canyon Literally and Figuratively on Shaky Ground” ( receipt of which was formally acknowledged by her staff and distributed internally at the NRC. In addition, representatives of the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility presented her with the paper during a visit to her office that same month. Senator Boxer raised similar questions in her first hearing on the subject, which can be viewed at:

The UCS paper provides precedents for many previous NRC decisions wherein unanswered or unanalyzed seismic questions or lapses led to the shutdown of the facility (including three in California) until such time as the concerns were mitigated or addressed. Why is Diablo Canyon–the largest of the facilities documented, being given a “pass” by the NRC in spite of these precedents? Why does Chairman Macfarlane respond as if this question is “new” to her? The Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility has presented her with two previous letters raising this concern. (viewable at: and

In addition, Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara) raised similar questions before a House subcommittee hearing with the NRC in December 2013 (video at:

As Senator Boxer stated in her earlier questioning of the NRC, “Earthquakes do not wait until the nuclear industry and the NRC is ready to deal with these threats. And families who live near nuclear facilities–and I have a number of them–should not have to wait one additional day for needed safety enhancements at nuclear reactors.”

Adds Rochelle Becker, executive director of the Alliance, “This unconscionable stonewalling by the NRC–especially as we approach the third anniversary of the ongoing Fukushima disaster–demonstrates that the NRC’s concepts of ‘lessons learned’ is merely lip service. We should continue to support the efforts of our own state’s regulatory agencies like the Energy Commission and PUC, which have been either recommending or requiring that the utility promptly complete updated and independently reviewed seismic analyses. In order to insure affordable and reliable energy–especially after the NRC and SCE’s fiasco at San Onofre–our state legislature should be monitoring this issue as well.”


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Diablo is a danger as long as it remains nuclear. It is one 8.0 quake away from catastrophe.

You think PG&E would advertise that ?

Answer: start retrofitting now ! The eyesore ( although remote and somewhat hidden from public view ) could be used for wave generation and a desal plant …something the area has much more use from.

Of course, PG&E would fight it…so I say condemn it by eminent domain for the public good !

Let the corporatists fight a rearguard battle. They’ll still get compensated, but not at the expense of hamstringing society.

Somebody should grill Boxer over the CBO report that just said the Affordable Health Care Act is going to cost 2 million American jobs by 2017. Astonishing cost of the latest government program.

Some one should grill red herring

Simply put, the report finds that Obamacare will reduce the number of people who are forced to work a job merely for the sake of health insurance

Yes, it will “liberate” people from having to work. That ought to really BOOST our economy (as Obama and Biden have repeatedly told us unemployed people do).

We’ll unemploy our way out of this “recession” with the help of Obummercare.

did you follow my link? ,familiar with keynes?

FDR’s guy did a great job.

and thats how it’s done.

any questions?

Gee, what a surprise…. PG&E and the CPUC up to no good, as usual

Dear Tacoma Rose…….and what is your solution?

One thing is not to rely on chuckleheads who proclaim how safe nuclear energy is without any regard for the obvious dangers.

My suspicion is many of these proponents are simply working in the industry and worried that their gravy train might be in jeopardy. I understand the concept of protecting the cash cow.

Its not that I dont rust PGE but then I read things like this ….. which was just released this morning. And just think … this was jsu a measly gas explosion.

oh… its either the supportive funds coming their way… or is it that they just love that Arab Oil??

Its time to get serious about energy independence…. and it aint coming from wind, solar ,thermal or prayer.

History may reflect very differently on all of these yahoos

rogerfreberg…….have you turned off your electricity? Have you invested a minimum of thirty grand in your new solar efficient home? Perhaps put you $$$$ where your mouth is? …….

“it aint coming from wind, solar ,thermal or prayer.” Why not? It’s pretty easy to do if you start using your brain for something more than seat padding. Solar is available to anybody around here with a sunny roof. If you don’t hog electricity, you can get a nice system to totally run your house for maybe $6K. Get back 30% in income tax credit, and the cost drops by $1800. Sounds like a really good deal to me. Oh, yes, the payback on that is about 8 years. After that your electricity’s free — for the next 20 or probably many more than that years. I call that being serious about energy independence. You’re just not serious about it, I guess. Would rather fuss and moan than actually do something. Surely you can afford the cost given what you do. So what’s holding you back from being independent?

Also, don’t call people who are smarter than you “yahoos.” That’s just not nice. It suggests you value stupidity over intelligence. And that wouldn’t be the case, would it, Rog?

Not a goofy response by Givemeabreak, it’s a valid reasoned one. Where do you get “GOOFY” out of a post that challenges legitimate but brainless actions by MB leaders? That challenges nuclear PP opponents to cut their power?

I’d say that TacomaRose citing (without naming) “certain inherent dangers and risks” could be demeaned. WHICH dangers, TR? Your imagined catastrophe of waste casks? Harry Reid cancelled a multi-billion dollar Nevada waste facility that has been geologically stable for 80 million years. Blame him for the extra casks at D. Canyon.

As to risks, remember one more person has died in Senator T. Kennedy’s car than from Diablo Canyon. Indeed, FOUR more have died in Barrack H. Obama’s Bengazi diplomatic corps (pronounced by him “corpse”) than have died from Diablo Canyon.

Very well said Lame Commenter………sure they do not want to address these REAL issues. Still waiting for them to turn off their lights,…….Come on we can not have it both ways….either you believe in some thing and have the balls to back it up or you don’t. ,,,I did not think so.

OMG- Rush is that you?

The Grade is a cluster on many three-day weekends, forget it if there is a fender bender. When the emergency comes it will be a parking lot with those, who can, running over the hill to safety. There is no proven scenario for an escape plan. At minimum, there needs to be a surface road system where access can be controlled for emergency services.

Hey, I got an idea! Lets move the NRC Offices, along with Gary Kirkland’s home, and put ’em right along Diablo’s cliff line at the base of the generator building! Whata ya say you two?!! Can we set a moving date?

Just sayin’…

If they honestly believe the plant is safe, they might just go for that offer. That is a pretty stretch of coastline if you can somehow hide the plant itself from your view.

Not a problem after all there are not that many people that would get hurt if a catastrophe should occur. Right PG and E?