2003-01-13 MFP news release on Diablo safety

Mothers For Peace news release asks the question - can Diablo Canyon be made safer?

Can Diablo Canyon be made safer?

San Luis Obispo Intervenors believe Diablo Canyon can be made safer, but they have been dismissed by the NRC.

January 13, 2003 - Over two decades ago, the San Luis Obispo residents attempted to persuade the NRC to require PG&E to provide defense in depth at Diablo Canyon before it granted a license. The NRC felt the likelihood of a terrorist attack at a nuclear plant was so remote that only minimal planning was necessary. But have nuclear plants been exempt from terrorism, acts or malice or insanity. No, in fact numerous instances of malicious acts by outsiders and insiders at nuclear plants have occurred. Safety systems have been sabotaged. In France a reactor under construction was attacked by anti-tank missiles penetrating the containment. At Three Mile Island a truck breached security barriers and threatened the facility.

Has the NRC's policy on terrorism changed since September 11, 2001? No it has not. In fact all petitions, filed by reactor communities and the state of Utah, seeking NRC policies on terrorism, have been denied.

The NRC states it is reviewing, and will continue to review its policy, but the need to provide defense in depth have been ignored. Yes they have required additional guards equipped, by a military standard, with light weapons, and more interaction with local, state and federal law enforcement. But will any of these additions will make nuclear plants less vulnerable to a 9/11 style terrorist attack? No, they will not. In fact in four recent NRC denials on issues of terrorism it stated:

"We [NRC] hold today that NEPA [the National Environmental Policy Act] does not require a terrorism review...the Commission [NRC] had specifically considered and rejected requiring protection against the malevolent use of an airborne vehicle."

And yet, PG&E has applied to expand storage of high level radioactive waste in our coastal zone from approximately 1600 highly radioactive fuel assemblies to over 4,400, which will only increase vulnerability. Will the dry cask storage proposed by PG&E replace the vulnerable spent fuel pools? No, it will not. Radioactive fuel assemblies must be left in the pools for a minimum of 5 years to thermally and radioactively cool before it can be transferred into dry casks.

A PG&E spokesperson stated recently "In terms of defense, Diablo is a very robust plant." It is interesting that PG&E chose the word "robust" to describe defense at Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant. That is exactly the term international expert on security, Dr. Gordon Thompson stated in his testimony as lacking, not only at Diablo, but at all U.S. nuclear plants. Dr. Thompson is an internationally respected expert on security and terrorism at nuclear facilities. He has been an advisor to: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Energy, the United Nations, the World Bank, the Government of Ireland, the Canadian Senate and the Nevada Nuclear Waste Project office. Nevertheless, the NRC's licensing board did not allow him to even speak at its prehearing conference held in San Luis Obispo last September.

Dr. Thompson was brought to San Luis Obispo at the expense of community intervenors and donations of frequent flier miles to inform the licensing board that Diablo Canyon can be made safer, but his words and declaration fell on deaf ears. However, Dr. Thompson's recommendations were reasonable and included:

  • constructing a hardened containment over vulnerable radioactive spent fuel pools
  • using heavier all metal casks vs. metal and concrete jacketed casks proposed by PG&E
  • dispersing the casks over a wider area
  • provide a bunker or berm to give further protection to each cask

A video interview with Dr. Thompson can be viewed on Cable Channel 10, Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 9:00 am and 6:30 pm through February 28.

The San Luis Obispo Community intervenors must rely on donations and no amount is too small to help us in our efforts. If everyone reading this article sent a donation of $10.00 (or more), our costs of continuing legal intervention would be assured. The community intervenors are not trying to scare local residents, we are attempting to educate our community on the issues of safety concerns and to assure that all issues that will impact the safety and economic future of San Luis Obispo County are fully addressed in legal proceedings. We need your help. The Community intervenors need your help. Tax-deductible donations for the legal intervention can be made to the San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace, PO 164, Pismo Beach, CA 93448.

San Luis Obispo Community Intervenors
Peg Pinard: San Luis Obispo County Supervisor
Rochelle Becker: spokesperson for San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace
Diane Curran: Attorney representing Mothers for Peace and other Community Intervenors
Gordon Thompson: expert on terrorism and security