Feds Say Diablo Canyon Earthquake Safe

Nuclear Regulatory Commission Announces Recent Findings

In a press release issued late last week, the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that, based on the most recent findings of its staff, the Shoreline fault near PG&E’s Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant does not propose any risk beyond what the plant is already designed to withstand. The staff report, which comes amid heavy state-level scrutiny about the plant’s seismic safety and the potential for horrific environmental impacts associated with planned 3-d seismic testing, concludes that, based on “conservative estimates” of the damage that a quake along the Shoreline fault could cause, there is a “reasonable assurance of safety.”

According to the report, after conducting a site visit last fall and seeking feedback from independent researchers about the potential for ground motion caused by a quake along the recently discovered Shoreline fault, NRC staffers have concluded that the facility, which was built in the early 1970s and retrofitted in the early ’80s, can handle any sort of trouble that may shake down from a quake generated along the Shoreline fault. “All of those ground motions fell within Diablo Canyon’s existing design limits, which are based on ground motion associated with an earthquake from the larger Hosgri fault near the plant,” summed up the press release.

Noting that regular evaluation of the plant’s earthquake preparedness is a fundamental aspect of the terms and conditions that Diablo currently operates under, NRC spokesperson Victor Dricks offered Tuesday that last week’s announcement had nothing to do with the ongoing debate over the risks associated with PG&E’s planned 3-d imaging of the various faults near the oceanside plant. (That controversy is slated for further discussion next month at a meeting of the California Coastal Commission.) He added that not only is the NRC planning on additional safety review of the plant in the coming months as it relates to earthquakes but also that they are looking forward to seeing the findings of PG&E’s proposed testing.

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