The NRC needs to consider seismic data in Diablo Canyon license renewal
October 14, 2014
OPINION By FRIENDS OF THE EARTH
Friends of the Earth has filed a petition to intervene in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission proceeding that would allow Pacific Gas & Electric’s controversial Diablo Canyon nuclear reactors to run for an additional twenty years.
The new seismic data released in September by the utility reveals that the 1960s-era Diablo Canyon reactors are surrounded by larger, interconnected faults capable of producing earthquakes that far exceed the plant’s licensed design. Friends of the Earth argues that the plant’s ability to withstand such earthquakes should be considered in a public hearing on the seismic safety of the PG&E reactors before the license extension to operate Diablo Canyon into the mid-2040s can be decided.
“This new, alarming seismic data clearly shows that faults surrounding Diablo Canyon could produce earthquakes far more powerful than those for which the plant is designed—this is a recipe for disaster,” said Damon Moglen of Friends of the Earth “It’s now clear that Diablo Canyon could never get a license to be built at its current Central Coast site. The NRC must consider this seismic data as part of public licensing hearings.”
Friends of the Earth filed its petition to intervene in the PG&E Diablo Canyon license renewal Oct. 10, prompted by the seismic report. The state-mandated PG&E report reveals that the newly discovered Shoreline Fault is twice as long as the utility had maintained in its prior report of 2011.
Located just 600 meters offshore from the plant, the fault runs 45 kilometers and is capable of far greater ground motion than the Diablo reactors were licensed to withstand. In addition, the new report reverses prior claims by PG&E, and establishes that the Hosgri, San Simeon and Shoreline faults are connected, and therefore capable of far greater ground motion than the plant was designed and licensed to withstand.
PG&E filed for a license renewal for Diablo Canyon in 2009, but the hearing process was suspended in the immediate aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. A 2011 NRC study indicated that Diablo Canyon is the nuclear power plant in the U.S. most likely to fail in response to an earthquake larger than it was designed to withstand. Despite this, PG&E has remained committed to its pursuit of license renewal.