Congressmember Lois Capps got nowhere fast with an intriguing parliamentary ploy to slow down efforts by PG&E to relicense the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in Morro Bay by denying the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) the funding needed to conduct the environmental impact report needed for relicensing to proceed. Capps sought to attach this measure to the 2012 Energy and Water appropriations bill, but lost on a party-line vote of 152 to 269. Capps has insisted that relicensing should be put on hold pending completion of independent, peer-reviewed 3-d seismic tests of the two fault lines running off the coast from Diablo Canyon.
Questions about what magnitude quakes the faults could deliver, and how well the plant would stand up to them, have long plagued many environmental activists. But according to an article published by the San Francisco Chronicle, the need to answer these questions has gained traction with federal geologists, especially since the Fukushima nuclear disaster that hit Japan earlier this year. Capps has questioned why PG&E has applied to relicense Diablo Canyon, given that the two reactors’ permits don’t expire for another 12 years. Capps has expressed concern that PG&E is hoping to get the relicensing finished before the high-tech seismic studies can be completed and has accused the utility of having “the cart before the horse.” Capps, along with State Senator Sam Blakeslee, has lobbied the NRC and PG&E both to slow the process down, and to an extent, they have already succeeded.
But in the wake of a recent study published by the NRC on additional emergency measures U.S. nuclear plants should take, many critics — like Capps — have ratcheted up their efforts. Congressmember Ed Markey, for example, the highest-ranking Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, blistered the NRC, stating its initials stand for “No Regulations Contemplated,” and accused four of the five commissioners of voting to weaken environmental and safety requirements at U.S. nuclear facilities.