We have no way of knowing what the future holds for the residents of Japan, particularly those living near crippled, leaking nuclear reactors. Along with the rest of the world, we watch, wait and pray that the worst has occurred — knowing that more dire news could be an hour or two away.
On the Central Coast, we feel a special connection to the victims of this triple disaster: earthquake, tsunami and radiation release.
We too, live in an earthquake zone. We, too, are vulnerable to tsunamis. And we, too, live with an aging nuclear power plant in our backyard.
Of course we wonder: Could a disaster of this magnitude happen here?
We’ve heard reassurances from Pacific Gas & Electric Co:
Diablo Canyon was engineered to withstand a 7.5 quake.
The maximum quake that could be generated by faults near Diablo, they say, is 6.5 — far less severe than the magnitude 9.0 quake in Japan.
The faults here are a different type — strike/slip, as opposed to Japan’s subduction faults — so an earthquake is less likely to cause a massive tsunami.
Should a tsunami occur, the Diablo Canyon Power Plant is on a coastal bluff, 85 feet above sea level, as opposed to the low-lying Japanese nuclear plants.
Those are significant differences. Yet we can’t help but reflect on the people of Japan. Surely they, too, were given similar assurances that a release of radioactive material could not happen.
Now, as we watch this catastrophe unfold, it is clear that we have no business building any more nuclear power plants near active earthquake faults. Also, we must reassess the safety of existing nuclear plants, to guard against a repeat of this disaster.
For Diablo Canyon, we believe it is more important than ever to ensure the safety of the plant by thoroughly studying seismic issues prior to relicensing. That includes a complete mapping of the Shoreline Fault, discovered in 2008.
That was our position in March 2010: “What’s the hurry?” we asked then. “Given that the Diablo Canyon Power Plant could be operating another 35 years, we don’t believe a one-or two-year delay to gather all relevant information is out of the question.”
More than ever, we believe that is the proper course of action, and we strongly urge that relicensing be put on hold until studies are complete.
We also believe this disaster is a wake-up call to renew our commitment to developing alternative forms of energy, such as wind and solar, that don’t carry the risk — or the waste — of nuclear, coal- or oil-fired plants.
It’s time to stop debating about whether solar panels will be too visible from a highway or will threaten too many giant kangaroo rats or will cause too many trees to be destroyed.
It’s time to develop a sane — and safe — long-term energy policy if not for our sake, then for the sake of our children and grandchildren.