Diablo Canyon: Stirred Not Shaken

Lois Capps Takes Issue with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Thursday, December 19, 2013
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Congressmember Lois Capps expressed doubt that the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant is adequately engineered to safely shut down in the event of an earthquake. She spoke at a congressional subcommittee hearing last Thursday attended by all five members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). In addition, Capps said she was upset by new NRC regulations making it more cumbersome for members of oversight committees to have access to sensitive NRC documents relating to the safety of plants in their own districts. Capps said the new policies ​— ​which require members of oversight committees to submit information requests via their committee chairs or minority leaders ​— ​were “troubling” and “unacceptable” with regard to NRC transparency.

NRC chair Allison Macfarlane said nothing has really changed, telling Capps, “We will respond as we always have.” In other interviews, Macfarlane attributed the uproar over the new rules ​— ​exclusively by Democrats ​— ​to “a misunderstanding.” She also told Capps that the NRC has determined that Diablo Canyon complies with all NRC seismic safety regulations and disputed concerns raised two years ago by Dr. Michael Peck, the NRC’s resident inspector assigned to Diablo Canyon, that the plant did not conform with NRC safe-shut-down requirements.

Capps echoed Peck’s concern that the discovery of a new fault just offshore from Diablo Canyon called into question the amount of ground-shaking the plant might likely experience in the event of a quake. Macfarlane said Diablo Canyon had been engineered to safely shut down in the event of a quake 10 times more powerful than what the new fault could inflict. But when Capps tested the new policy, asking Macfarlane if she could provide a copy of Peck’s “non-concurrence” report, Macfarlane equivocated, stating, “I will have to check on that.”


Independent Discussion Guidelines

If Ms. Macfarlane is willing to put her life on the line for us, the we surely can put our millions of lives on the line for more energy and profits for the energy companies. Thanks Capps, I have doubts too.

spacey (anonymous profile)
December 19, 2013 at 1:37 p.m. (Suggest removal)

One hell of a complicated way to make steam.

GluteousMaximus (anonymous profile)
December 19, 2013 at 3:32 p.m. (Suggest removal)

From recent events, I wonder if contingencies are discussed about a tsunami hitting Diablo Canyon? Same setup. Scary to think about.

bimboteskie (anonymous profile)
December 19, 2013 at 10:21 p.m. (Suggest removal)

What can happen will eventually happen. Those tin cans holding the nuclear fission rods will catastrophically fail just before they detect the cracks forming. Shut it down now and layer the solar panels in the desert, leaving some room to crawl for the tortoises. The next question is Who will monitor the hot piles when civilization is decimated by the next Cosmic Collision? Hope you have a resilient DNA.

sbindyreader (anonymous profile)
December 19, 2013 at 10:56 p.m. (Suggest removal)

@Bimbo... Good point! If Diablo Cyn is in fact in a Tsunami zone, then all bets are off. Has the NRC addressed the Tsunami issue? Awareness is 99% of this issue. Nice that we are gradually phasing out energy sources that have potentially catastrophic consequences for human life, and the environment. Kudos to Capps!!

BondJamesBond (anonymous profile)
December 20, 2013 at 8:09 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Great to see Rep. Capps out front on this one. Thanks for the leadership. With the the BushBama administration's hyper-secrecy, it's no wonder that the NRC chair feels comfortable and justified in hiding the ball from our elected representatives. The NRC is just one of many government agencies captured by the industry it is supposed to be regulating. (That is why "big government" doesn't work, not vice versa.) Time to shut down that death trap, just like San Onofre. Some birds and desert animals may get the raw end of the deal from the machinery of renewable energy, but everyone and virtually everything will die in the ambit of an inevitable nuclear catastrophe.

JohnDouglas (anonymous profile)
December 20, 2013 at 12:12 p.m. (Suggest removal)

You're smoking coal if you think wind and solar can replace nuclear. California's carbon footprint is up 10% from shutting down San Onofre.

native2sb (anonymous profile)
December 22, 2013 at 10:01 a.m. (Suggest removal)

A tough nut to crack. 20% of US electricity is generated by nuclear power plants:

If we all had 200-year lifespans, you can bet folks would be thinking differently about a lot of things (and hopefully doing away with all the ideological shenanigans).

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
December 22, 2013 at 12:45 p.m. (Suggest removal)

We need to get out of this nuclear energy business ASAP. Conveniently, although a much small country, Germany also relied on nuclear for about 29% of its energy usage: yet last year, after Fukushima, their intelligent Chancellor (with a scientific background) shifted gears and whirled 180 degrees and followed the popular voice and closed half their nuclear power plants, and the second half is promised to be phased out quickly. Yes, it will cost a lot for the Germans, who have no oil of their own, but they are thoughtful, rational, and determined. We need to shut ours down, too.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
December 22, 2013 at 1:31 p.m. (Suggest removal)

sorry: it should read "Germany also relied on nuclear for about 20% of its energy..."

DrDan (anonymous profile)
December 23, 2013 at 9:24 a.m. (Suggest removal)

native2sb (anonymous profile)
December 23, 2013 at 9:45 a.m. (Suggest removal)

And 10% of our electricity came from decommissioning nuclear weapons.

native2sb (anonymous profile)
December 23, 2013 at 9:53 a.m. (Suggest removal)

sadly, you're correct native, and about 45% of Germany's 2012 energy consumption came from coal (of which they have plenty). However, they do get 22% of their power from "renewables" and are aggressively working to get that to 35% by 2020: .
And nonetheless, they are getting out of nuclear power, and another proof is how their giant Siemens Corp. is also out of nuclear power plant design and building.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
December 23, 2013 at 12:03 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Considering Lois can't even properly vet her own staff (Morua had prior DUI convictions prior to his fatal hit and run) I hardly find her qualified to comment on the science or soundness of a nuclear plant. Leave it to the scientists, engineers, and experts - not the politicians. This is an emotion-baiting campaign for her.

slo_goin (anonymous profile)
December 23, 2013 at 12:29 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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