SLO County supervisors raise Diablo concerns

Three of five county supervisors Tuesday called on PG&E to voluntarily suspend its drive to renew operating licenses for Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant until extensive earthquake safety studies can be completed.

The decision came after hours of public testimony by nearly 50 people about the safety of Diablo Canyon in light of the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan that caused radiation leaks from several crippled nuclear reactors.

Supervisor Adam Hill, whose district includes the nuclear plant, said the recent tragedy in Japan has sharpened the public’s concern about earthquake safety and reduced the public’s trust of PG&E’s assurances of the plant’s safety. He will draft a letter to be brought back for the board’s approval asking PG&E for peer-reviewed seismic studies before the utility proceeds with license renewal.

“PG&E is a critically important part of this community, and I would like to see them repair their trust with a great number of citizens by being proactive, by allaying fears and suspicions with an action that demonstrates its total commitment to our community,” Hill said.

The other supervisors calling for the PG&E voluntary suspension of license renewal were Bruce Gibson and Jim Patterson.

This will be the second letter that supervisors have written on this subject. A year ago, the board sent a letter to the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission asking for a delay in license renewal.

Several of the supervisors noted that the plant’s licenses do not expire until 2024 and 2025. This gives PG&E plenty of time to do the seismic studies beforehand, which should take about three years to complete.

PG&E has promised to complete the seismic studies, which will include three-dimensional mapping of the earthquake faults offshore of the plant. But the utility has said the seismic work will be done concurrently with license renewal, and federal regulators have agreed.

At its meeting next Tuesday, the board will hold a short discussion about emergency preparedness in the county, including plans for evacuations in the event of a radioactive leak from Diablo Canyon. PG&E officials also promised to update the board regularly on the emergency in Japan and lessons that can be learned from it.

“Our eyes are wide open,” PG&E representative John Shoals told the board.

All but a few of the public speakers Tuesday called on the supervisors to keep up the pressure on PG&E, the NRC and state and federal elected officials for a delay in license renewal. Some spoke against license renewal altogether, including several members of the San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace, saying the nuclear plant should be replaced with renewable power, such as solar.

Several Diablo Canyon employees defended the plant, citing its safe operating history. They also pointed out that they, too, live in the community and this makes safety a high priority for them.

Reach David Sneed at 781-7930.