Diablo Canyon at issue as panel gauges nuke safety

Diablo Canyon Power Plant

WASHINGTON (AP) - With several faults nearby, federal regulators need to reassess seismic standards at California's last operating nuclear power plant and determine if its operating rules are sufficient in light of earthquake risks, says a former California state senator.

In testimony to be submitted Wednesday to a Senate panel, Sam Blakeslee argues that the public safety demands closer scrutiny of Diablo Canyon's twin reactors, which are located on a seaside bluff midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and owner Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (NYSE: PCG) have long defended its safety.

"The potential earthquakes affecting the plant have increased with each major study. But what's equally striking is that the shaking predicted by PG&E for these increasing threats has systematically decreased," Blakeslee, a geophysicist who left the Legislature in 2012, says in prepared remarks.

He is scheduled to testify before the Environment and Public Works Committee, which has scheduled a hearing to question NRC commissioners about seismic safety at U.S. plants in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi disaster. The coastal complex in Japan suffered multiple meltdowns after an earthquake and tsunami destroyed its power and cooling systems. The magnitude-9 earthquake was far larger than had been believed possible.

The NRC has since directed U.S. nuclear plants to re-evaluate seismic risks, and those studies are due by March.

"The NRC must make safety its highest priority, because earthquakes don't wait for endless studies and I am concerned the NRC is again dithering when action is called for," Boxer said in a statement, referring to Diablo Canyon.

The Associated Press reported in August that a senior federal nuclear expert had urged the NRC to shut down the plant until it can determine whether the reactors can withstand shaking from any of several nearby faults not recognized when the plant was constructed decades ago.

The agency rejected the recommendation from Michael Peck, who for five years was the NRC's lead inspector at the plant. The NRC found there was no immediate or significant safety concern.

The agency's ruling was issued on the same day that PG&E released hundreds of pages of scientific research that found a fault 650 yards from the reactors, known as the Shoreline, is twice as long as initially believed, making it capable of producing potentially stronger earthquakes, and intersections between some faults in the region could create larger earthquakes than previously considered. PG&E said in a statement that the plant remains seismically safe and able to withstand the largest potential earthquakes in the area.

In his testimony, Blakeslee argues that the company has downplayed risks and criticizes the NRC for largely going along.

"Now that the data about the faults near Diablo is indisputable, PG&E has changed tactics and declared the plant is safe on the basis of a new set of equations it has developed," he writes.

According to Peck's report, PG&E research in 2011 determined that any of three nearby faults - the Shoreline, Los Osos and San Luis Bay - is capable of producing significantly more ground motion during an earthquake than was accounted for in the design of important plant equipment.

Peck's confidential analysis, later released by the NRC, argued that the agency should shut down the plant until it is proven that piping and other systems can meet higher stress levels, or approve exemptions that would allow the reactors to continue to operate.

An internal NRC review panel disagreed with Peck on key points, concluding that the three faults "do not exceed the level of ground motion already considered in the design and licensing" of the plant.

Earthquake faults and nuclear power plants have been uneasy neighbors in the state for decades.

The Humboldt Bay plant in Northern California, which was within 3,000 yards of three faults, was shut down in 1976 to refuel and reinforce its ability to withstand possible earthquakes. Restarting it became more difficult and costly than projected - it never reopened.



2014 Articles

Harvard Law School professor pays Clean Power Plan is unconstitutional

12/31/2014

Laurence H. Tribe, professor of constitutional law at Harvard University and former mentor to Barack Obama, said in an article last week that the EPA’s Clean Power Plan is unconstitutional.

3 SKorea workers die at nuke plant construction site

12/30/2014

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Three South Korean workers died Friday after apparently inhaling toxic gas at a construction site for a nuclear plant being built by South Korea's monopoly nuclear power company, which has come un...

UMaine in business of certifying turbine blades

12/30/2014

ORONO, Maine (AP) — The University of Maine has tested its largest wind turbine blade to date. UMaine's Advanced Structures and Composites Center completed static strength testing this month of a 184-foot-long wind turbine...

Mergers, EPA carbon plan generated much attention during 2014

12/29/2014

Mergers, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Clean Power Plan, cheap natural gas and the polar vortex were among the most noteworthy generation stories of 2014.

Developer opens Ohio review for 800-MW, gas-fired project

12/29/2014

Clean Energy Future-Lordstown LLC plans an 800-MW, gas-fired power project, and on Dec. 24 applied with the Ohio Power Siting Board for certain routine waivers it needs before filing a full siting application for this proj...

New England utility exec named to Vermont PSB

12/29/2014

A woman who worked for Vermont's Department of Public Service for 17 years is going to become the next member of the utility-regulating Public Service Board. The appointment of Sarah Hofmann was announced Monday by Gov. Pe...

Brown picks aide to lead troubled California utility board

12/29/2014

Gov. Jerry Brown named a former adviser on Tuesday to be the next head of California's troubled utilities commission, replacing a regulatory chief accused of back-channel dealings with utilities. Michael Picker, a former a...

Washington state carbon emissions dropped in 2011

12/29/2014

Greenhouse gas emissions in Washington state dropped by about 4.6 percent between 2010 and 2011, led by reductions in emissions from the electricity sector, according to the latest figures released by the state. The latest...

Group wants state regulators recused from PNM case

12/29/2014

State regulators in less than two weeks are to begin deliberating a proposal that calls for shutting down part of an aging coal-fired power plant in northwestern New Mexico that serves more than 2 million customers in the ...

Vermont Yankee plant prepares to shut down

12/29/2014

The Vermont Yankee nuclear plant is getting ready to shut down. Its owner, Entergy Corp., says it is closing the plant for economic reasons. The plant in Vernon is expected to disconnect from the regional power grid Monday.

PSEG Solar to acquire Maryland solar project from juwi

12/23/2014

PSEG Solar Source will acquire a 12.9-MW solar energy facility near Waldorf, Maryland from juwi solar (JSI). The PSEG Waldorf Solar Energy Center will increase the capacity of PSEG Solar Source's portfolio to 123-MW.

PG&E discloses more emails with state regulators

12/23/2014

California's largest power utility released a dozen more emails Monday that it said showed improper back-channel discussions between the utility and top state regulators.

Indianapolis airport solar farm expansion completed

12/23/2014

Contractors have finished bringing online dozens of acres of solar panels at Indianapolis International Airport, solidifying its status as the home of the nation's largest airport-based solar farm.

French power company to pay $772M in bribery case

12/23/2014

A French power and transportation company has agreed to pay $772 million to resolve allegations that it bribed high-ranking foreign government officials for lucrative projects, the Justice Department said Monday.

Nebraska nuclear plant back online after short outage

12/23/2014

The Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant is back online less than a week after its main generator unexpectedly shut down as a precaution.

Ameren Missouri plans $135M in energy efficiency

12/23/2014

Missouri's largest electric company said Monday that it plans to invest $135 million in energy efficiency programs for customers over a three-year period.

TEPCO completes nuclear fuel assemblies removal from Fukushima 4

12/22/2014

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) said it has safely removed the fuel assemblies from the most damaged nuclear reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

B&W Vølund to build waste-to-energy power plant in Scotland

12/22/2014

In a consortium with Interserve, Babcock & Wilcox Co.’s (B&W, NYSE:BWC) subsidiary, Babcock & Wilcox Vølund A/S (B&W Vølund), will engineer, procure and construct (EPC) a waste-to-energy (WTE) power plant f...

SKorea holds N-plant drills against cyber threats

12/22/2014

South Korea's monopoly nuclear power company said it began drills Monday against possible cyberattacks after online threats of attack against its plants.

PSC approves solar power project

12/22/2014

The Public Service Commission has approved solar power project planned by Kentucky Utilities and Louisville Gas and Electric in Mercer County.

Did You Like this Article? Get All the Energy Industry News Delivered to Your Inbox

Subscribe to an email newsletter today at no cost and receive the latest news and information.

 Subscribe Now

Whitepapers

Maximizing Operational Excellence

In a recent survey conducted by PennEnergy Research, 70% of surveyed energy industry professional...

Leveraging the Power of Information in the Energy Industry

Information Governance is about more than compliance. It’s about using your information to drive ...

Reduce Engineering Project Complexity

Engineering document management presents unique and complex challenges. A solution based in Enter...

Revolutionizing Asset Management in the Electric Power Industry

With the arrival of the Industrial Internet of Things, data is growing and becoming more accessib...