If PG&E President Chris Johns sincerely wants to earn customers’ trust — as he told The Tribune editorial board last week — here’s a good way to start: Follow the recommendation of state Sen. Sam Blakeslee and suspend or withdraw the license renewal application for the Diablo Canyon Power Plant until seismic studies are complete.
Blakeslee made that request Monday at a legislative hearing in Sacramento. He also said he would draft legislation to block the permitting process if PG&E does not suspend the license renewal.
Blakeslee — who has a doctorate degree in earthquake studies — has always taken an err-on-the-side-of-caution approach when it comes to Diablo Canyon.
Monday’s hearing was the first time, however, that he formally called for PG&E to withdraw its license application until it completes three-dimensional mapping of the Shoreline Fault, discovered in 2008.
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We admire Blakeslee for taking this strong step, which could not have been easy.
As a moderate Republican, he’s already been taking heat from conservatives for his willingness to negotiate with Gov. Brown on the budget. Now, he once again sides with more liberal colleagues on an environmental issue.
(Remember, in 2005 and 2008 he was the only Republican in the Assembly to vote to uphold the federal moratorium on oil drilling off the California coast.)
What’s more, Blakeslee — who can come off as vague and noncommittal on other issues, such as the state budget — has not hesitated to make his position on Diablo Canyon crystal clear.
“Aging nuclear power plants and large, active fault systems should not be in close proximity. This isn’t exactly rocket science,” he recently told the Associate Press. Because the Shoreline Fault is so close to the Diablo Canyon plant it “can produce shaking far in excess of what’s expected.”
That’s exactly what occurred in the March 11 earthquake in Japan. Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey have said that the offshore fault that produced the quake had been rated at a maximum 7.9 or 8.0 — yet generated a 9.0 earthquake.
Given that level of uncertainty, we agree that it makes far more sense to be cautious and complete a thorough study of offshore faults that could affect Diablo Canyon.
Keep in mind, too, that PG&E is not facing a tight deadline; current licenses for the two reactors don’t expire until 2024 and 2025 — 13 and 14 years away.
Again, we commend Sen. Blakeslee’s strong commitment to the safety of his constituents who live and work near Diablo Canyon.
We join him in urging PG&E to demonstrate its own commitment to safety by completing seismic studies and re-evaluating the risk that offshore faults pose to the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant before proceeding with relicensing.