Diablo Canyon is safe

February 3, 2014

diabloOPINION By GARY KIRKLAND

The Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant is one of the safest places on earth. Back in the 1980’s, I took a tour of the plant as a science teacher in this county. We went wherever we wished, except to the actual nuclear containment domes. The place is extremely over built for safety. The plant is way above the ocean where any tsunami could hit. Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) has very large pools of fresh water above the plant that would cool any overheating in the facility. Gravity operates this system.

Over the years, I have talked to people who work there. They confirm that PG&E has done everything they can to make this place as safe as humanly possible.

I think the people such as those in Mothers for Peace and the Abalone Alliance are afraid of dying because they worry so much about the safety of nuclear power plants. Do they know where they are going after they die and want to stay alive as long as possible to delay going there?

The Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant is quite safe and provides much needed electricity for customers. Those who want to close the plant should quit using electricity from PG&E and allow the rest of us to have the electricity we want and need.

Gary Kirkland is an Atascadero resident and president of the San Luis Obispo County Libertarian Party.


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TaxMeAgain

Thanks for trying Gary. The kooks will exploit any possible chink in your armor and go for the jugular. The science is sound, but the population is not so much.


Rambunctious

Nuclear Power is safe. We should build desalination plants powered by Nuclear reaction. We do it with our naval fleet.


OnTheOtherHand

Nuclear power CAN BE safe. That doesn’t guarantee that it will be. As long as nuke plants are monitored by experts WITHOUT a bias towards the industry to keep the corporations controlling them honest and as long as we can find a solution for dealing with the waste, we should be able to do this. But those are important limitations that we need to address.


MaryMalone

Nuclear energy CAN be safe. However, nuclear power production has so many major possible fail points, from mining nuclear material, to processing it into an appropriate format for energy production, to transportation and storage of the spent fuel rods, that there are many, many points at which a human mistake can create a heinous tragedy.


Along the steps leading to nuclear energy production, humans are in control of the processes…and humans make errors, no matter how well they are trained, how long they have been on the job, and how we much they try not to make mistakes.


To no one’s surprise, Diablo American NPPs have extremely strict rules about substance abuse. Yet substance abuse does occur, up to the positions of the highest level of operational responsibility.


There is a big difference between when a convenience-store clerk shows up for work under the influence and when a nuclear engineer shows up for work under the influence. A stoned convenience store clerk’s mistake will have relatively limited impact on the planet; a stoned nuclear engineer’s mistake can have as profound impact on the planet and its people.


So while, yes, nuclear energy CAN be safe, as long as humans are involved in any of the processes, despite the best efforts of the humans, mistakes WILL be made …and the damage that can occur from a human mistake in nuclear energy production can impact millions of people, and the environmental damage can take milllons of years to resolve.


THAT is why a nuclear power plant can ever be considered one of the safest places to be. It is because the magnitude of the damage possible because of a mistake.


jrstone

MaryMalone,


If I may? All of what you say is on the mark but there is a multiplying factor that seems to be overlooked…


This reactor was placed right smack in the middle of one of the most seismic active spots on the planet!


Insane!


Just sayin’…


SLOTECH90

Fear born of IGNORANCE!


MaryMalone

Many activists are quite educated about the dangers and benefits of nuclear power.


Some of us have actually worked at Diablo.


You damage your own credibility when you use blanket statements such as “Fear born of ignorance.”


I could just as easily retort with “Nuclear energy support born of a fat paycheck.”


The reality is opinions from both sides of the debate are born from complex, often informed reasoning and motivations.


OnTheOtherHand

Correct! I just hope that those on both sides can show some respect for the positions of those on the other side by actually listening to their views. Making sure ones own views have factual backup makes it easier to get that respect from reasonable opponents too.


Sarah Bellum

While it’s true that Ayn Rand was an atheist, a number of her modern followers are not. Therefore Mr. Kirkland’s third paragraph is problematic. He invites his detractors to go to hell while simultaneously extending a middle finger to his compatriots’ own faith.


TacomaRose

Gary Kirkland’s blanket statement that Diablo is one of the safest places on earth is an example of absolute twisted logic and is on its face, absurd.


With that said, I admit that I am a somewhat reluctant supporter of nuclear energy with the caveat that the industry must face heavy scrutiny and it must come up with a solution to store and/or neutralize the spent nuclear fuel.


Self regulation is unacceptable, as we learned in 2002 when TEPCO admitted the falsifying of safety records related to Fukushima Daiichi.


Ultimately we saw what happened in Fukushima as well as Chernobyl. When mistakes or accidents happen in this industry they can be unforgiving to life sources.


Adding to the safety issue is the fact that the industry has still not resolved the issue of storing the spent nuclear fuel and it is piling up on site. One must ask how long the spent rods will remain on site? The half life for spent nuclear fuel exceeds 20,000 years, so in the absence of a technique to neutralize the spent fuel we are faced with a frightening predicament.


Kirkland’s libertarian posture that anything goes in the name of personal and corporate freedoms is a dangerous pursuit. His stance on common sense issues like framing reasonable regulations on assault weapons and reasonable restrictions on Wal-mart, paint the local libertarian party as a party of reckless thinkers.


To think that Kirkland was once a school teacher to the young minds of Atascadero, frightens me to the core.


OnTheOtherHand

You had me in agreement there until you got to “common sense issues like framing reasonable regulations on assault weapons and reasonable restrictions on Wal-mart.” I have seen enough mindless acceptance of emotion-driven “solutions” to violence to question whether you have any idea of what constitutes “reasonable” in the first case and, perhaps, in the second. It is a discussion for another time and place though.


bobfromsanluis

Gary: One of the very reasons Diablo is as safe as it is is because of the influence of concerned citizens and groups like Mothers for Peace; without their intervention on our behalf, it is quite possible that we may never have known about the fact that the execution of one of the structures was built in reverse of what the plans called for; without them, inspectors may have never looked as closely at some of the defective welds that were found and corrected. Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant is as safe as it is because PG&E has had its’ feet “held to the fire” by Mothers for Peace. If the group had not raised the concerns they did, if they had not spoken up, it is quite possible that Diablo Canyon would be a shoddy operation with profit as the only motive and safety concerns could have taken a back seat.


We should all be quite thankful that Mothers for Peace got involved, stayed focused and pushed to make PG&E accountable for everything connected to the construction, set up and continued operation of Diablo Canyon.


As for other safety concerns about Diablo, there is a growing amount of nuclear waste being stored there, stuff that will remain quite nasty for a few more centuries; can we be completely sure that it is going to remain “safe”? I for one think that our legacy of nuclear waste is going to have a very grim accounting in the future, and we will be painted with the brush of having put corporate interests far ahead of any considerations for safety and long term accountability.


Safety is an ongoing operation and Diablo Canyon is only as safe as the lowest person in the chain of responsibility is focused on; those working there have be as vigilant as possible for all of everyone’s safety.


Turquoise

Oh, Gary, you forgot to tell us to pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.


MaryMalone

Yeah…the man behind the curtain may be chemically impaired.


MaryMalone

“The Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant is one of the safest places on earth.”


What an absurd comment. It is a nuclear power plant, which immediately places it in the “unsafe” category. We have to be realistic about the situation.


AND the Diablo site is constructed smack-dab over an earthquake fault. That is a nuclear accident waiting to happen.


In addition, there is only one two-lane road to get workers and contractors in and out of the facility location. If a nuclear accident occurred where workers were exposed to radiation, there would be precious few on-site workers who made it off the property before they had suffered exposure.


Don’t get me wrong…I think the safely measures Diablo has in place are great for avoiding non-nuclear exposure accidents. It is the best safety training I have ever undergone before starting a job.


However, the fact that there is only a two-lane road in and out of Diablo puts on-site workers at risk should a nuclear-exposure accident occur.


I no longer work at Diablo, but still, frequently when I turn on a light switch or other electrical appliance, I give thanks to the the people working at Diablo Canyon. They are risking their lives for us, and I don’t think that is something that many people remember.


OnTheOtherHand

They designed Diablo to take a moderately strong earthquake (7.3?). I don’t know if they knew all the possibilities in terms of earth movement at the time, but I am guessing that it is probably safe as long as they didn’t significantly underestimate the worst case scenario in terms of quake intensity.


The biggest dangers from a nuclear power plant come not from design but from the people involved in building and operating it and from the transportation of fuel to the plant and spent fuel from it.


There were certainly some chilling stories about some of the construction crews but they seem to have corrected any screwups that may have occurred during that phase. While I am sure that the people operating it aren’t all perfect, everything I have heard about them indicates that they are pretty damn good and that the rare problem gets caught quickly by the redundant safety procedures.


They have apparently managed to get fuel to the plant safely and, since no one is willing to take the spent fuel, transportation of that hasn’t been an issue yet. I have no knowledge of their plant security setup as far as preventing sabotage but I am guessing that is also pretty well done.


So, the only significant potential problem I see is a possibility (not a certainty) that they didn’t design sufficiently for an earthquake — and that would include the storage areas for more spent fuel rods than they anticipated. It may not be a perfect situation but our society desperately needs energy sources and this is a lot cleaner than burning fossil fuels.


I live downwind from the plant and I consider it worth the risk. So apparently do the many people who work there and would obviously be aware of the “only one way in” situation. (Actually, there may be another emergency exit via Montana De Oro but it is a narrow, winding and somewhat rough road.) The lack of alternative accesses is beneficial to security too.


MaryMalone

I believe it is short-shortsighted and unrealistic to use the terms “apparently ” and “assume” when discussing the dangers versus safety of nuclear power production.


We have living evidence of what happens when humans involved in nuclear energy production make mistakes, when equipment fails, when an earthquake occurs near (or under) a NPP, or when human greed and cronyism trump over the safety of humans in the design, purchasing and installation required for a NPP.


These are all conditions which are part and parcel of ANY industry. It is just that the stakes of the game are exponentially higher when we are dealing with the nuclear power production industry.


As far as the other “access road,” Diablo doesn’t consider it an access road and for good reason. The condition of the road would make it a death trap should an event occur at Diablo and immediate evacuation need to occur. There is a reason that road is closed and considered one of the verbotten areas of the facility’s property.


tojofay

OK Gary if you say so. You sound really smart. You looked around in the 80’s and you said that smart thing about the afterlife. I’m convinced.


Thanks Gary- phew I was worried. Can you go have a look at Fuku

shima in Japan and let us know what you think?