NRC to discuss Diablo Canyon’s 2015 safety next week in SLO

One of Diablo Canyon Power Plant’s nuclear reactors in Avila Beach.
One of Diablo Canyon Power Plant’s nuclear reactors in Avila Beach. AP

Staff members with the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission will hold a public meeting Wednesday in San Luis Obispo to discuss its 2015 safety evaluation for Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.

The agency is expected to report that Diablo Canyon operated safely in 2015.

The meeting will run from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at Embassy Suites, 333 Madonna Road. NRC staff members will make a presentation on the plant’s performance assessment and will then be available for questions and comments from the public.

“The meeting provides us with the opportunity to present the results of our annual safety assessment of Diablo Canyon and answer questions members of the public may have about NRC’s regulatory role,” said Marc Dapas, administrator of the agency’s regional office in Arlington, Texas.

NRC meetings typically attract several dozen members of the public — both supporters of the plant and anti-nuclear activists. The main safety concerns about the plant are its proximity to numerous earthquake faults and the indefinite on-site storage of highly radioactive used reactor fuel.

The NRC translates the findings of its inspections into a color-coded grid for the various operational aspects of the plant. The colors range from green, white, yellow and red, depending on the significance of the safety issues involved.

The assessment will have some good news for PG&E in that previous problems with the plant’s emergency evacuation planning have been corrected.

From 2005 to 2013, the emergency plan lacked a requirement to evacuate boats at sea within 10 miles of the plant in the event of a radioactive release. This resulted in one of the plant’s color-coded performance assessments to be downgraded from green to white, and additional inspections were required.

In a letter to the utility, NRC Director of Reactor Projects Division Troy Pruett said the white assessment has been upgraded to green and the plant will receive the normal inspection oversight for the rest of 2016.

PG&E officials said the utility noticed the emergency planning error and notified the NRC. It represented a low to moderate safety significance, they said.

PG&E spokesman Tom Cuddy said the utility is pleased with the upgraded performance assessment.

“The NRC’s assessment places Diablo Canyon among the higher performing plants in the U.S. nuclear industry,” he said. “This reflects the hard work and dedication of our talented employees and our commitment to meeting PG&E’s and the NRC’s high performance standards.”

Diablo Canyon has two resident NRC inspectors on site who regularly perform safety inspections. The agency also sends additional inspectors from its Arlington office for specialized inspections.