Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) public affairs officer Victor Dricks (“Safety is paramount,” June 9) writes like an advocate for PG&E rather than a representative of the regulator responsible for public safety.
Dricks states that the NRC finds the ongoing problems at Diablo to
be of “very low safety significance.” However, in a letter sent from the NRC to PG&E addressing the performance of the plant during 2010, the NRC characterizes the Diablo record regarding problem identification and resolution as problematic:
“The NRC previously identified 14 findings with this cross-cutting aspect in our midcycle assessment and concluded your actions had not yet proven effective in substantially mitigating the adverse trend in problem identification at that time. … Based on the findings we continue to identify in this area, we concluded your actions to address the theme have not yet proven effective … [T]his is the third consecutive assessment with a substantive cross-cutting issue in problem identification and resolution associated with the thoroughness of problem evaluation.”
The entire letter is available at www.nrc.gov/NRR/OVERSIGHT/ ASSESS/LETTERS/diab_2010q4.pdf.
David Lochbaum from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) recognizes the safety significance of recent events. In his recent report (“The NRC and Nuclear Power Plant Safety in 2010: A Brighter Spotlight Needed”), Dr. Lochbaum examines 15 recent near-misses at U.S. nuclear plants, including one at Diablo Canyon. For 18 months, the emergency core cooling system was compromised by valves that were mis-set due to human error.
Although all of the 40 NRC violations noted in the UCS report impacted safety, only three were classified as greater than the lowest level by the NRC. NRC terminology appears to be chosen to avoid calling attention to the potential safety consequences of human or mechanical failure.
The Mothers for Peace will continue its volunteer work of 38 years—demanding that the NRC prioritize public safety over corporate convenience at all 104 nuclear plants. In the case of the Diablo Canyon plant, surrounded by earthquake faults and poorly managed for decades, the best way to do that would be to shut it down.