The Pacific Gas and Electric Company asked the U.S. NRC to hold their decision on the plant’s license until the utility company could complete a survey of the nearby Shoreline Fault to assess possible risks associated with a disaster similar to the 9.0 magnitude tremor that struck Japan last month. The plant — located 12 miles from San Luis Obispo and less than a mile from the fault — contains twin nuclear reactors designed to withstand 7.5 magnitude seismic activities.
According to PG&E Counsel David A. Repka, the research will determine if additional safety measures are necessary for ensuring the power plant’s structural integrity.
“In light of the recent events in Japan and the interest in California on the issue of seismic safety at [Diablo Canyon], PG&E believes it prudent to complete these studies and issue a report addressing the results prior to issuance of a state [Coastal Zone Management Act] consistency certification and a renewed NRC operating license,” Repka said in a press release last week.
According to Linda Seeley, vice-president for the nuclear disbarment advocacy group SLO Mothers for Peace, the commission should have originally prohibited the plant from being constructed in an earthquake-prone location.
“The Nuclear Regulatory Commission states that nuclear power plants may not be built in seismically active areas, and yet they made an exception for Diablo Canyon 28 years ago,” Seeley said.
Jane Swanson, a spokesperson for SLO Mothers for Peace, said her organization is concerned about the facility’s emergency preparedness. SLO Mothers for Peace publically contended the NRC’s license renewal process in March 2010 to prevent further operation of the reactors.
“NRC inspection reports document an ‘adverse trend’ of chronic errors in the management of safety equipment at Diablo Canyon,” Swanson said.
California’s 23rd District Congressional Representative Lois Capps addressed the U.S. Senate on April 11 with requests that the NRC commission increase its oversight in the PG&E survey of the Diablo Canyon Facility.
Capps’s press secretary Ashley Schapitl said the congresswoman requested a complete suspension of the facility’s license until the fault studies are completed.
“The way PG&E made that request, [they] would basically be able to continue the [application] process, [the commission] just would not issue a verdict until the studies are done,” Schapitl said. “Lois would prefer that the process be halted until the studies are completed.”
Despite the appeal, Schapitl said Capps is not advocating for the commission to shutdown the facility.
“She certainly knows that [nuclear plants] provide 15 to 20 percent of California’s power, but she wants to make sure the plant is able to provide affordable power as well as ensure public health and safety,” Schapitl said.
The Southern California Earthquake Center reports a 37 percent probability that a tremor of 7.5 magnitude will occur within the next 30 years.