PG&E has put its radioactive cart before the regulatory horse and wants California to get out of the way. Two earthquake faults, Hosgi and Shoreline, lie within three miles offshore of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. The state of California has required PG&E to complete 3-D seismic mapping of the Shoreline Fault, which is only 1,800 feet from the plant, before expending ratepayer funds for the license renewal application process (involving around $85 million). Did PG&E listen? No! About two months after filing its renewal application to the NRC and a week after requesting ratepayers expedite funding for the seismic studies, PG&E continued to thwart state demands and asked the California Public Utilities Commission to charge ratepayers for the renewal application. Have they no shame?
PG&E, like the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the State of California, is well aware Diablo’s reactors and their radioactive byproducts are sitting in an area of major seismic faults. While the utility downplays the newly discovered fault, recent seismic history should open our eyes. In July 2007, within ninety seconds, 8,000 megawatts of nuclear generated power in Japan was knocked offline by an earthquake. Two of the seven reactors there recently returned to commercial operation, but the loss to Japan stemming from the cost of replacement power and repairs is estimated to exceed $10 billion.
On January 10, a 6.5-magnitude offshore quake hit northern California and another 5.9-magnitude earthquake hit on February 4. Two days after that first quake in northern California, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake devastated Haiti. Yet the magnitude of each of these quakes is less that the 7.5-magnitude disaster possible on the Hosgi Fault.
In 1967, when the state of California granted PG&E a certificate to construct the Diablo nuclear plant, there were no known faults. In 1982, the NRC approved operation of Diablo Canyon with one known fault and PG&E spent more than $2 billion to reinforce its reactors.
The Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility has asked the NRC to form a seismic review panel with the United States Geological Society, state oversight agencies, and non-governmental organizations, to resolve seismic uncertainties before proceeding with the license renewal process. To support the request, see the website a4nr.org/?p=325.