Central Coast elected officials are calling for closer scrutiny of the dangers posed by earthquakes to Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.
County Supervisor Bruce Gibson on Tuesday told PG&E’s chief nuclear officer, John Conway, that he wants a vigorous discussion about nuclear power as well as regular updates of the earthquake safety of Diablo Canyon in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan that caused radioactive leaks from several reactors there.
“The Japanese quake has caused many people to look at nuclear power through a different set of lenses,” Gibson said.
Also on Tuesday, Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, who represents the coastal areas of San Luis Obispo County, sent a four-page letter to U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman Gregory Jaczko asking for information about seismic safety precautions at nuclear plants. The letter was also signed by Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., a critic of nuclear power.
The letter singled out Diablo Canyon and the state’s other nuclear plant, San Onofre in Southern California.
“We are concerned that San Onofre, Diablo Canyon and possibly other nuclear reactors located in seismically active areas are not designed with sufficient levels of resiliency against the sort of earthquakes scientists predict they could experience,” the letter states.
Capps and Markey asked for information in seven specific areas, including emergency back-up power generation, location of spent fuel pools and a list of accidents since 1990 that resulted in electric power loss at nuclear plants.
“In your opinion, can any of the operating nuclear reactors in the United States withstand an earthquake of the magnitude experienced in Japan?” the seventh and final request reads.
NRC spokeswoman Viktoria Mitlyng said the agency gets requests such as this regularly and will respond. The agency recently completed a seismic review of the nation’s 104 operating reactors and concluded that they are safe.
“Existing plants were designed with considerable margin to be able to withstand the ground motions from the ‘deterministic’ or ‘scenario earthquake’ that accounted for the largest earthquake expected in the area around the plant,” concluded the NRC review.
California’s U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein have sent a letter to the NRC asking that Diablo Canyon and San Onofre be inspected for earthquake safety. Like Capps, they also made requests for information.
PG&E spokesman Kory Raftery said the utility is required by the NRC to conduct an ongoing seismic review at Diablo Canyon to update safety information. The utility is currently doing high-definition mapping of the ocean floor off Diablo Canyon.
In the months before the Japan quake, Central Coast elected officials sent letters to a federal blue ribbon commission examining the future of nuclear power in the nation. Letters from state Sen. Sam Blakeslee, Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian and Capps asked the commission to hold a meeting in California before it makes policy recommendations in a draft report.
“As the Blue Ribbon Commission prepares the draft report, which will include considerations of technology and policy alternatives, it is our hope that the unique issues surrounding nuclear power and waste storage and disposal in seismically active California are considered,” summarized the letter signed by Blakeslee and nine other state legislators.