Environmentalist and Coastal Commission executive director Peter Douglas waited years for an opportunity to get a major Diablo Canyon issue before the agency's panel. The commission can only regulate PG&E's coastal nuclear juggernaut typically under the jurisdiction of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on matters that extend the life of the plant.
In a boardroom off of San Francisco's Embarcadero on Dec. 14, Douglas finally received that chance and went for the pot. According to Coastal Commission minutes, in exchange for the final go-ahead on a massive project to replace eight steam generators at the Pecho Coast facility, Coastal Commission staff coaxed its board to ask for more than 9,000 acres of utility land for conservation.
Additionally, Douglas' team asked the commission to bar the plant from drawing fresh water from Diablo Canyon Creek and to require the relocation of security gates to give hikers access to the Point San Luis Lighthouse. Over utility objection, the commission adopted both of these requirements as a part of the project.
Diablo Canyon's desalinization plant will now have to be upgraded at a cost of $3 million to compensate for the loss of the creek as a water source.
However, despite objections by commissioner Sara Wan, the board sided with PG&E on the land-conservation issue, requiring it to shelve just 1,200 acres for mitigation purposes. Douglas stressed the need to secure proper environmental restitution for what Wan characterized as the plant's "horrific" effects on Pecho's coastal ecosystem, according to the minutes.
When Diablo Canyon's two 1,100-megawatt reactors run at maximum efficiency, the whole apparatus requires as much as 2.6 billion gallons of seawater a day through a suck-it-up-and-spit-it-out process known as once-through cooling. That suction levies a substantial death toll on fish larvae and smaller sea organisms.
Just before deliberation, PG&E had upped its conservation offer from 620 acres to 1,200 on top of a $1.8 million pledge toward lighthouse repairs.
Donna Jacobs, head of the utility's nuclear arm, argued that the proposed steam generator replacement would cause no direct damage to the environment and that the staff's 9,130-acre easement request proved excessive. The Diablo Canyon property consists of 12,791 acres in total, running along the coast from Port San Luis to Monta"a de Oro.
Following lengthy deliberation, the commission voted to bump the easement down to PG&E's offer.
The matter went to the Coastal Commission after the Sierra Club and anti-nuclear group Mothers for Peace appealed a March 7 decision by county supervisors to approve the generator replacement project.