Planned seismic tests near Diablo Canyon to be discussed at hearing

bcuddy@thetribunenews.comOctober 9, 2012 

Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant

JOE JOHNSTON — jjohnston@thetribunenews.com Buy Photo

Yielding to growing public pressure, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors has scheduled a public hearing Oct. 30 to discuss PG&E’s proposal to conduct seismic tests off the coast near the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.

“I want to make sure this is aired out pretty well,” Supervisor Frank Mecham said of the utility’s plan to conduct the high-energy surveys.

The tests are part of a $64 million study that PG&E is conducting to better understand earthquake faults around the nuclear plant.

Extremely loud blasts of sound will be emitted into the ocean every 15 seconds in three areas of the Pacific, from near Cambria to Guadalupe.

Nine to 12 days of testing will be done this year and the remainder performed next year.

Seismologists will be able to use the echoes of the sound blasts from Earth’s crust to develop three-dimensional images of earthquake faults at the depths the quakes occur.

However, almost from their inception, the tests have drawn strong opposition because many people fear they will harm marine life, the local fishing industry and the economies of Avila Beach and Morro Bay.

That opposition has been building all summer, and again on Tuesday a dozen people spoke in opposition.

Supervisor Bruce Gibson, a geologist who has been closely tracking the movement of the proposal through various regulatory agencies, noted that supervisors have no authority over the testing, which is in the jurisdiction of state agencies.

However, like Mecham, he said he wants the public’s questions answered thoroughly — “a complete discussion of all points of view.”

While the board cannot make decisions on the plan, it can make recommendations, letting the responsible agencies know how local residents feel.

Gibson said the testing is a highly complicated proposal that raises economic, environmental, safety and moral issues. He wants all of that explored in a public forum.

There has been considerable misunderstanding of what is involved, and some false information is making the rounds, Gibson said.

The hearing isn't on the agenda yet, but the board's regular meetings start at 9 a.m. at the County Government Center, 1055 Monterey St. in San Luis Obispo.

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