As we listen to Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission reassure us that Diablo Canyon Power Plant is well-designed and safe, we should remember that the plant was not originally designed and built to handle what local faults can produce.
In 1974, after PG&E began tests of Unit 1, the NRC reversed a prior decision and stated the original seismic design was inadequate. By 1976, PG&E, against its wishes, was forced to upgrade the seismic design and begin a retrofit.
In 1979, the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board approved PG&E’s new design changes, but in 1981, after a low-power license was already approved, a young engineer discovered that the recently completed seismic retrofits had been designed and built backward.
This forced PG&E into starting a second retrofit in 1982, the same year the NRC gave PG&E a poor rating for managing its nuclear activities plus a notice of violation for making material false statements relative to Diablo.
Bottom line: Diablo is a retrofit with a history of problems, geologists are still debating the maximum quake the plant could experience, and Diablo has the potential to render much of our county uninhabitable. I’m not reassured.
Don’t repeat mistake
I am one of those citizens who has always been open-minded about nuclear energy. But in reading the news that is coming out of Japan, we must re-examine our assumptions about the occurrence of natural disasters and the backup safety systems at Diablo Canyon Power Plant.
After all, some very proud and confident Japanese nuclear engineers never envisioned tsunami waves as high as the ones that have crippled these plants and now threaten the safety of millions of Japanese residents.
Let’s not repeat their mistake.