Concerns about earthquake and tsunami safety at Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in the aftermath of the March 11 nuclear disaster in Japan dominated a local meeting Wednesday of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The agency held its annual meeting in San Luis Obispo to review the plant’s performance last year. The agency found that the plant operated safely in 2010 but workers continue for the third year to have difficulty identifying and solving problems.
The nuclear accident in Japan left many of the nearly 30 speakers at the meeting wondering whether something similar could happen at Diablo Canyon. The earthquake and subsequent tsunami caused the Japanese plant to lose electrical power for an extended period, resulting in meltdowns in three reactors.
“Why do we put on blinders and pretend that couldn’t happen here? It could happen here,” said Linda Seeley of San Luis Obispo.
“Our lives are literally in your hands,” she told the NRC officials in attendance.
County Supervisor Adam Hill, whose district includes Diablo Canyon, said many of his constituents are concerned about how the earthquake faults and design features of the Japanese plant compare to Diablo Canyon.
Many of the speakers urged the NRC and PG&E to shut the plant down and concentrate on renewable energy sources.
The Japanese accident has prompted Germany to enact a plan to phase out nuclear power.
Other speakers cited the fact that an emergency preparedness inspection of Diablo Canyon by the NRC soon after the Japanese accident showed more than 20 problems that had to be corrected, including an emergency pump that would not start.
A deadly natural gas pipeline blast in 2010 in San Bruno that revealed poor recordkeeping practices by PG&E also concerned some of the more than 100 people in attendance.
The plant’s ongoing difficulties in identifying and solving problems were also a topic of considerable discussion. Jane Swanson, spokeswoman for the San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace, said PG&E and the NRC are on a merry-go-round of identifying problems and downplaying their significance so that they never get solved.
NRC officials said they will conduct additional inspections in July focused specifically on the plant’s problem resolution issue.