Diablo Canyon seismic surveys delayed to mid-November

The start of controversial, high-energy seismic studies offshore of Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant has been delayed until mid-November.

The state Coastal Commission was scheduled to decide whether to issue one of the key permits for the project at its Oct. 10 meeting in Oceanside.

That hearing, however, has been postponed at the request of plant owner PG&E until the Nov. 14 meeting in Santa Monica, said Cassidy Teufel, an environmental scientist in the commission’s San Francisco office.

The utility had hoped to begin the high-energy earthquake fault mapping as soon as Nov. 1. The delay of the Coastal Commission hearing means the survey work would begin around Nov. 19, if the commission issues the permit.

The utility asked that the hearing be postponed because it wants to make some changes to the work planned for this year, Teufel said. Most importantly, PG&E plans to limit this year’s work to one segment in the middle of Estero Bay, extending out from near Morro Rock.

“We’ve been working to address concerns about the project,” Teufel said. “The postponement was made to give us a little more time for discussion and evaluation of the changes.”

PG&E had originally planned to conduct surveys on two segments this year. The second segment is a rectangular area around Point Buchon and Point Sal.

With the elimination of the second segment, the utility should be able to complete work on the one segment this year. The State Lands Commission has limited work to the months of November and December.

PG&E has the ability to apply to complete the survey work next year during that same time frame. The project consists of emitting very loud sound blasts into the ocean to map earthquake faults around the nuclear plant.

Supporters of the study say it will yield new geologic information that was made more critical in light of the Fukushima disaster in Japan last year. Opponents fear the loud sounds will be harmful to fish and marine mammals.