Senator Boxer calls out NRC on Diablo Canyon safety
December 4, 2014
At a federal hearing in which both Rep. Lois Capps and former state sen. Sam Blakeslee testified, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer criticized the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for its handling of safety concerns about Diablo Canyon Power Plant.
The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, which Boxer chairs, met Wednesday and discussed seismic threats to Diablo Canyon. Boxer was chairing the committee for the last time before ceding control to Republican Sen. James Inhofe, and the California Democrat used the opportunity to clash with NRC regulators.
Boxer accused the NRC of not doing enough to ensure safety in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. She particularly referenced the commission’s rejection of findings submitted by former Diablo Canyon Michael Peck, who questioned the seismic preparedness of the plant in a formal complaint he filed with the NRC.
Peck argued that PG&E should shut down Diablo Canyon until earthquake threats are properly addressed.
Capps testified at the hearing Wednesday in support of Boxer and said that not enough is known about the threats posed to the nuclear plants by nearby fault lines discovered after its construction. The Central Coast congresswoman called for an independent review of data gathered in a recent seismic study commissioned by PG&E.
Blakeslee, a geophysicist, said the NRC must reconsider its seismic standards for Diablo Canyon and alter its licensing process for the plant. He testified that each major study of hazard facing the plant has led to revelations of increased earthquake threat.
A PG&E spokesman responded, saying that utility company has conducted thorough studies of nearby faults. The PG&E studies conclude that the plant can withstand the potential earthquakes the faults could generate.
In a separate proceeding, the NRC notified PG&E earlier this week that it had tentatively downgraded Diablo Canyon’s safety designation due to unauthorized changes to the plants emergency warning protocol for notifying boats in the area. A PG&E plan adopted in 2005 does not properly account for notifying boaters, San Luis Obispo County and the U.S. Coast Guard in the event of a radioactive leak or other emergency, according to an NRC letter. [Tribune]