Quantcast

Shut California's Fukushima: Diablo Must Go

Energy

The catastrophe at Fukushima was not an accident. It’s unfolding again in California.

The next west coast quake could easily shake the two reactors at Diablo Canyon to rubble.

They are riddled with defects, can’t withstand potential seismic shocks from five major nearby fault lines, violate state water quality laws and are vulnerable to tsunamis and fire.

Diablo's owner, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), is in deep legal and financial crisis.

A 42-page report from NRC inspector Dr. Michael Peck says new fault line discoveries challenge Diablo’s “presumption of nuclear safety.”

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has just proposed that PG&E be fined $1.4 billion for a 2010 gas explosion and fire that killed eight people and obliterated a neighborhood in San Bruno. The federal government has announced 28 indictments, meaning the CPUC fine may just be the tip of a very expensive iceberg for PG&E. The San Bruno disaster was caused by pipeline defects about which PG&E had been warned for years, but failed to correct. The fines cover 3,798 separate violations of laws and regulations, both state and federal. PG&E was previously fined $38 million for a 2008 pipeline explosion in Rancho Cordova.

Similar defects remain uncorrected at Diablo Canyon, whose radioactive cloud could span the continental U.S. in four days. Mass citizen action recently shut two coastal reactors at San Onofre. It must do the same at Diablo before the next quake hits.

Ironically, as America’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) allows Diablo to operate, all 54 reactors in Japan remain shut. Its Nuclear Regulatory Authority has just ordered the Tsuruga reactor to be scrapped because of its vulnerability to earthquakes. Two more elderly reactors at Mihama may also be terminated before year's end.

At Fukushima, Tokyo Electric Power now admits that far more radiation is spewing into the Pacific than previously admitted. The thyroid cancer death rate among children in the area is 40 times normal. So is the still-rising childhood thyroid abnormality rate, a terrifying re-run of downwind Chernobyl.

Tepco has begun paying compensation to local suicide victims, including the widower of a woman who doused herself with kerosene before burning herself alive.

All of it predictable.

For decades Japanese citizens warned Tepco not to build reactors in an earthquake/tsunami zone. The company repeatedly ignored safety warnings and tolerated known defects that worsened the disaster.

Diablo Canyon’s twin reactors sit eight miles west of San Luis Obispo, between Los Angeles and San Francisco, surrounded by earthquake faults.

The Hosgri, three miles offshore, was found as the reactors were being built. Design specifications were never fully altered to account for it. Nor have they been upgraded for the newly-found Los Osos, San Luis Bay and Shoreline faults.  The Shoreline lies just 650 yard from Diablo’s cores.

The massive San Andreas fault is just 45 miles away, about half as far as was the March 11, 2011, Richter-9.0 epicenter from Fukushima.

Read page 1

A shock that size from any of the fault lines near Diablo could reduce it to a seething pile of radioactive hell, far deadlier than Fukushima. Prevailing winds could blanket virtually all of North America with its deadly fallout.

The nuclear industry would immediately deny all health impacts. It would blame “unpredictable” God and nature.

But a 42-page report from NRC inspector Dr. Michael Peck says new fault line discoveries challenge Diablo’s “presumption of nuclear safety.”

Buried by the NRC for at least a year, it was released by Friends of the Earth and reported on by the Associated Press and the great enviro-journalist Karl Grossman, as well as by the Nuclear Information & Resource Service and Beyond Nuclear.

Peck has a doctorate in nuclear engineering and was Diablo’s chief on-site inspector for five years. He’s now a senior instructor at the NRC’s Technical Training Center in Tennessee. His status as a current NRC employee makes such a critical report highly unusual—and alarming.

Nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen has warned about sea-level intake pipes like those at Diablo. When the tsunami struck Fukushima, he writes, “The cooling equipment along the shoreline was turned into a scrap yard of twisted metal.”

Then there is fire.

Diablo Canyon, writes David Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists, "has never, ever complied with fire safety regulations, not even for a second by mistake."

“The one-two punch of earthquake/tsunami caused Fukushima," Lochbaum wrote in an email to me.

"A one-two punch of earthquake/fire could cause Diablo Canyon.”

But, says Lochbaum, “It can't be an accident. Not when the company and its alleged regulator both know that the plant does not met earthquake and fire safety regulations.

“That cannot cause an accident. Criminal negligence perhaps. At least malicious mayhem. But not an accident.”

More than 10,000 people were arrested trying to stop Diablo in the 1970s and ‘80s. During the delays they caused, PG&E found major errors in reading key blueprints involving some of Diablo’s most critical equipment.

Damage is still being tallied from California’s Aug. 25 Napa Valley quake. The 1994 Northridge quake killed 57 people, injured roughly 5,000. The Loma Prieta quake during the 1989 World Series killed 63 people, injured more than 3,700. The infamous 1906 San Francisco quake leveled the city and killed thousands.

New shocks at Diablo Canyon could dwarf all those numbers—and Fukushima’s.

Tens of millions of Americans would be irradiated.  Our continent's eco-systems would be poisoned.  Our nation's economy would be gutted.

But as at San Bruno, there would be no excuses.

Harvey Wasserman wrote SOLARTOPIA!  OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH and editswww.nukefree.org.  He was arrested at Diablo Canyon in 1984, and is likely to be back soon. Listen to Wasserman's recent radio discussion of Diablo with David Lochbaum and Rochelle Becker.

YOU ALSO MIGHT LIKE

Thyroid Cancer in Young People Surge in Fukushima Since Nuclear Meltdown

The Slow Death of Nuclear Power and the Rise of Renewables

Fukushima’s Children are Dying

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A general view of the flooded St. Mark's Square after an exceptional overnight "Alta Acqua" high tide water level, on Nov. 13 in Venice. MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP / Getty Images

Two people have died as Venice has been inundated by the worst flooding it has seen in more than 50 years, The Guardian reported Wednesday.

Read More Show Less
Supply boats beside Aberdeen Wind Farm on Aug. 4, 2018. Rab / CC BY 2.0

President Donald Trump doesn't like wind turbines.

In April, he claimed they caused cancer, and he sued to stop an offshore wind farm that was scheduled to go up near land he had purchased for a golf course in Aberdeenshire in Scotland. He lost that fight, and now the Trump Organization has agreed to pay the Scottish government $290,000 to cover its legal fees, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A verdant and productive urban garden in Havana. Susanne Bollinger / Wikimedia Commons

By Paul Brown

When countries run short of food, they need to find solutions fast, and one answer can be urban farming.

Read More Show Less
Trevor Noah appears on set during a taping of "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah" in New York on Nov. 26, 2018. The Daily Show With Trevor Noah / YouTube screenshot

By Lakshmi Magon

This year, three studies showed that humor is useful for engaging the public about climate change. The studies, published in The Journal of Science Communication, Comedy Studies and Science Communication, added to the growing wave of scientists, entertainers and politicians who agree.

Read More Show Less
rhodesj / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Cities around the country are considering following the lead of Berkeley, California, which became the first city to ban the installation of natural gas lines in new homes this summer.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Rebecca Burgess came up with the idea of a fibersheds project to develop an eco-friendly, locally sourced wardrobe. Nicolás Boullosa / CC BY 2.0

By Tara Lohan

If I were to open my refrigerator, the origins of most of the food wouldn't be too much of a mystery — the milk, cheese and produce all come from relatively nearby farms. I can tell from the labels on other packaged goods if they're fair trade, non-GMO or organic.

Read More Show Less
A television crew reports on Hurricane Dorian while waves crash against the Banana River sea wall. Paul Hennessy / SOPA Images / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Mark Hertsgaard and Kyle Pope

Some good news, for a change, about climate change: When hundreds of newsrooms focus their attention on the climate crisis, all at the same time, the public conversation about the problem gets better: more prominent, more informative, more urgent.

Read More Show Less
U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.) met with Bill Gates on Nov. 7 to discuss climate change and ways to address the challenge. Senator Chris Coons

The U.S. Senate's bipartisan climate caucus started with just two members, a Republican from Indiana and a Democrat from Delaware. Now it's up to eight members after two Democrats, one Independent and three more Republicans joined the caucus last week, as The Hill reported.

Read More Show Less