Inspector Wants California's Last Nuclear Plant Shut Down over Earthquake Concerns

California's last nuclear power plant could be shut down over concerns about earthquake preparedness.

The AP reports that former chief inspector of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power station has written a 42-page report stating that the station may not be able to survive the possible shaking it could be exposed to in a major earthquake. Dr. Michael Peck wants his own agency, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, to shut down the plant until PG&E can demonstrate it is safe.

The main contention in Peck's report, as relayed by the AP, is that PG&E has not demonstrated that equipment in the plant could withstand the "peak ground acceleration" that could result from a major earthquake at any of three faults in the vicinity of the plant.

The reactor was built in the 1970s, and since that time two previously unknown faults were detected in the immediate area. The plant underwent seismic retrofitting decades ago, but the disaster at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant in 2011 raised concerns that another expensive round of retrofit may be necessary. The Fukushima plant's cooling systems were damaged by the tsunami following a major earthquake.

When the NRC agreed to let the plant continue to operate, Peck filed a complaint in 2012. Then, last year, he filed a second complaint. His report is now being reviewed by the NRC which refused to comment for the AP story.

In addition to the concerns over seismic readiness, the California State Water Resources Control Board is looking at forcing PG&E to retrofit the plant's cooling system. Presently the station releases warm water into the Pacific Ocean. Environmentalists claim the warm water is harmful to fish and crabs. One alternative being considered is the construction of cooling towers.

The Diablo Canyon plant is located on the California coast midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Since the San Onofre nuclear power station in southern California shut down in 2013, Diablo Canyon is the last remaining nuclear power site in the state.


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