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

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 reportsthat former chief inspector of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power stationhas written a 42-page report stating that the station may not be able tosurvive the possible shaking it could be exposed to in a majorearthquake. Dr. Michael Peck wants his own agency, the NuclearRegulatory Commission, to shut down the plant until PG&E candemonstrate 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 couldwithstand the “peak ground acceleration” that could result from a majorearthquake at any of three faults in the vicinity of the plant.

The reactor was built in the 1970s, and since that time two previouslyunknown faults were detected in the immediate area. The plant underwentseismic retrofitting decades ago, but the disaster at Japan’s Fukushimanuclear plant in 2011 raised concernsthat another expensive round of retrofit may be necessary. TheFukushima 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 acomplaint in 2012. Then, last year, he filed a second complaint. Hisreport is now being reviewed by the NRC which refused to comment for theAP story.

In addition to the concerns over seismic readiness, the CaliforniaState Water Resources Control Board is looking at forcing PG&E to retrofitthe plant’s cooling system. Presently the station releases warm waterinto the Pacific Ocean. Environmentalists claim the warm water isharmful to fish and crabs. One alternative being considered is theconstruction of cooling towers.

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