Diablo Canyon operated safely in 2013, NRC inspectors say

Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant operated safely during 2013, according to an annual assessment by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

NRC officials met with senior plant operators Wednesday evening in San Luis Obispo to discuss the results of the latest safety report which covered the period of January 2012 through June 2013. The assessment is based on reporting by plant owners PG&E and inspections carried by two onsite NRC inspectors.

Using the agency’s color-coded reporting system, all of the plant’s operations received a green designation, indicating low safety significance. During the past year and a half, the NRC conducted 3,860 hours of inspections, said Tom Hipschman, senior resident inspector at the plant.

“2012 was a solid year for us, and 2013 was even better,” said Ed Halpin, PG&E’s chief nuclear officer.

In 2012, inspectors identified one area that had low safety significance but needed to be improved. In the area of human performance and decision-making, the report noted a “failure to use conservative assumptions in decision making such that licensee decisions demonstrate that nuclear safety is an overriding consideration.”

However, that issue has since been corrected.

“There are no current safety culture issues at Diablo Canyon,” Hipschman said.

The annual report had been scheduled for October but was postponed because of the federal government shutdown. A normal schedule of inspections is planned for 2014.

Turnout at Wednesday’s briefing was about 50 people, which was light compared to the more than 200 people who attended an NRC hearing a month ago to protest the indefinite storage of highly radioactive spent reactor fuel at the plant.

Several speakers at Wednesday’s hearing reiterated their concerns about the used fuel storage issue, particularly in light of the earthquake danger faced by the plant because of two nearby faults and the 2011 meltdown at the Fukushima plant in Japan caused by an earthquake and tsunami.

Jane Swanson, spokeswoman for the San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace, said the community cannot afford the risk posed by the plant and does not need the power.

“PG&E appears not to have heeded the warning of Fukushima: Mother Nature does not always acknowledge the worst case scenario mankind can predict,” she said.