San Luis Obispo ‘Mothers for Peace’ supports seismic testing – “with conditions”

The iconic poster for the original “Another Mother for Peace” org.

By David Gurney

The San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace (SLOMP) delivered an ambiguous press release on PG&E Diablo Canyon seismic testing on Saturday – ambivalent to the point of dysfunctional, with a clarity factor of near zero.

The release “supports seismic testing, with conditions.”

The group starts out in the release to support “gathering seismic information about the earthquake faults near Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant,” stating that “seismic studies must be done” to assess “dangers posed by earthquake faults to two nuclear reactors and the (storage of) tremendous amounts of high-level radioactive waste”.

Then it recommends delaying the seismic data surveys, and using methods other than the PG&E proposed underwater air-cannons.

“Mothers for Peace advocates that the seismic testing be delayed to allow time to thoroughly explore other technologies less harmful to marine life, and baseline studies of marine life must be completed and analyzed before any testing begins.”

But delaying the surveys only increases the amount of time the nuclear plant will continue to unsafely operate.

Finally, in the last paragraph, the release states: “because of 13 earthquake faults in the area… San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace for decades has recommended that the plant be shut down and all stored radioactive waste be transferred to hardened casks as soon as possible.”  

Thus SLOMP implies, but does not actually state, that theirdecades long” recommendations actually apply up to now, as in right now.

Many are coming to the realization that we shouldn’t wait for, nor should we proceed with, harmful seismic tests.  The danger is already known – clear and present.  Delaying or conducting the tests only continues the plant’s unsafe operation, and postpones the ultimate day of reckoning when the nuke’s old age will finally force its closure. 

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On Aug. 20th, 2012, in Sacramento, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom cited to me California Assembly bill AB 1632 – as the reason he understands these seismic studies are mandated to proceed.

But Senator Sam Blakeslee’s bill was enacted by the California Legislature in 2006, two years before the discovery of the Shoreline fault, in 2008.  This Shoreline Fault runs a mere 300 yards away from cooling intake structures at the Diablo Plant.  We all know from Fukushima what happens when a nuclear power plant loses its cooling water.  It goes ballistic.

Do we really want to take a chance of relying on back-up cooling systems, in the event of a large earthquake that could knock out sea water intakes, as well as roads and infrastructure to the remote plant?  

Unfortunately, that is not the worst-case-scenario by any means.

According to the SLOMP release, there are a total of “13 earthquake faults in the area around Diablo Canyon…the Hosgri… (the) Shoreline Fault, the Diablo Cove Fault, which runs directly under the Unit 1 reactor, the San Luis Bay Fault, and the Los Osos Fault.” 

You read it right: the Diablo Cove Fault…. RUNS DIRECTLY UNDER THE UNIT 1 REACTOR” !!!

How much more evidence do we need, than prior knowledge of 13 faults around Diablo, one of which runs directly beneath the plant?

(You could write songs about it.  Maybe the whales already have.  Or maybe we’re all just stuck in a bad “the Simpsons” episode.)

SLO Mothers for Peace got it right when they advocated for decommissioning Diablo.  The only problem is, they haven’t said when.

Diablo’s NRC license is set to operate until 2024.   Do we really want another dozen years of playing Russian-roulette with a couple of aniquated reactors, sitting on an extremely dangerous earthquake hazard zone?

And what are the stakes if the unthinkable happens?  Are the gains worth the risk?

You can be sure PG&E will put-off the closing date of Diablo, no matter what, because when that day comes, it’s going to cost them.  No matter that the risks of continuing are far greater than anything that could be called their own.  Furthermore, does anyone actually believe that the results of these surveys will ever be enough to get PG&E to actually shut-er-down?  Doubtful.

So, for my two-bits, after thirty years of successful power from Diablo Canyon, isn’t it time to call in our bets?

Even if PG&E does get away with another thirty years of gambling with the future of Central California, what are the results?  Yes, some “cheap” electricty.  But it’s not so cheap after all.  There is a price, and a big one.

Instead of facing, right now, the problem of dealing with hundreds of tons of high-level radioactive nuclear waste, stored in an unsafe way, at an unsafe location – after a dozen more years of Diablo operations, we’ll have yet another half a million pounds of spent fuel rods to deal with.

From that point on, it’ll take at least another five years in the “cooling ponds” before the spent fuel can safely be transferred to “dry-cask storage.”  So change that dozen years to at least seventeen years.

And if the the tests are allowed to proceed, a few hundred dead whales, a few thousand dead porpoises and sea lions, a few million fish and birds later, what if these tests proclaim everything’s safe?  Do you really want to ante-up another forty years against the BIG ONE ?

Some of Diablo’s rods have been transferred to “dry casks” – which, according to industry sources, are safe for 150 years, out of the 250 thousand years needed for high-level waste to actually become “safe.”  Hundreds of metric tons of hot fuel sits in precarious 40-foot deep cement storage tanks, affectionately called “spent fuel pools.”  The high-level radioactive waste needs a constant flush of ocean water to keep it from going critical.

The only real safety issue for Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, is how soon the closing and de-commissioning process will commense.

Mothers for Peace has hedged its bets, by at once calling for seismic tests, then calling for the surveys to be postponed, and finally calling for the plant to be shut down, as they have “for decades recommended” – without setting an actual date.

Perhaps the operative word here is “soon.”  Well, soon is possible.

And that soon is now.

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The complete press release from S.L.O. ‘Mothers for Peace’ appears below:

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2012-09-15 POSITION ON SEISMIC TESTING

Mothers for Peace supports seismic testing, with conditions.

San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace supports gathering seismic information about the earthquake faults near Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant. In the wake of the Fukushima disaster and PG&E’s application to renew the licenses, seismic studies must be done to learn more about the potential dangers posed by earthquake faults to the two nuclear reactors and the tremendous amount of high-level radioactive waste that has accumulated on site over the past 28 years.

The current proposed plans for seismic studies offshore and near Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant were set in motion by AB 1632, an act of the California State Legislature. AB1632 is being implemented by the California Public Utilities Commission. At present, Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) plans to conduct these studies from November – December 2012, with the possibility of the tests being divided into two parts in successive years at the recommendation of the California State Lands Commission. Mothers for Peace asserts that there are additional faults that also need further study in order to determine whether they might lead to more severe consequences than either the Hosgri or Shoreline Fault. These faults include the Diablo Cove Fault, which runs directly under the Unit 1 reactor, the San Luis Bay Fault, and the Los Osos Fault.

San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace shares the concerns of many local citizens and organizations about the extensive harm that will be inflicted on marine life if these studies are carried out as currently designed. PG&E’s plans rely largely on extremely loud underwater air guns, which are acknowledged by all parties to be highly disruptive to the ocean environment. Mothers for Peace urges extreme caution in the method used to obtain data about the faults in the 530 square nautical miles of the proposed testing area.

Because of grave and valid concerns voiced by the fishing and environmental communities, Mothers for Peace advocates that the seismic testing be delayed to allow time to thoroughly explore other technologies less harmful to marine life, and baseline studies of marine life must be completed and analyzed before any testing begins.

Because there is no plan for storing the radioactive wastes for the 250,000 years they will remain lethal; because Homeland Security classifies all nuclear facilities as targets of terrorism; and because of the 13 earthquake faults in the area around Diablo Canyon, San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace for decades has recommended that the plant be shut down and all stored radioactive waste transferred to hardened casks as soon as possible.

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3 Responses to San Luis Obispo ‘Mothers for Peace’ supports seismic testing – “with conditions”

  1. Molly Johnson says:

    The members of Mothers for Peace would love nothing more than to shut Diablo down NOW. They fought damn hard to stop it from being built in the first place, many of them arrested, but it was built anyway. For over forty years now they have been the group that had forced Diablo to be what the nuke industry calls one their “safest” plants (as if there is any such thing as a “safe” nuclear power plant.) They have done so by learning to work within the system to get results. What they are responding to right now is this horrific high-intensity acoustic testing. The position statement shows years of experience in all the nuances of Diablo Canyon. We can shout “SHUT IT DOWN NOW” till we’re blue in the face – I know I’ve been doing it for 30 years – and it won’t ever happen. There are many ways to achieve the goal of shutting Diablo down – let the Mothers for Peace do it their way while at the same playing the game so well that the NRC fears coming to SLO!!

  2. Molly Johnson says:

    And I do want to say I agree with pretty much everything you said above. Diablo should have never been built and it should be shut down right now – any suggestions on how to that?