San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace (SLOMFP) on September 14 pressed forward with its ongoing legal challenge before the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to seismic risks posed by continued operation of the twin Diablo Canyon reactors. SLOMFP also contends that renewal of the Diablo Canyon license is not necessary because of abandundant renewable energy alternatives.
SLOMFP asked the four Commissioners at the head of NRC to review a decision by NRC’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) that Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) did not need to do a more thorough seismic risk analysis before gaining approval to operate another 20 years past 2024. SLOMFP argued that the Board had committed legal error by ignoring the opinion of SLOMFP’s expert, Dr. David Jackson, emeritus professor of seismology at UCLA, that PG&E had not collected enough earthquake data or followed well-established methods for California earthquake mapping. As stated by Dr. Jackson:
“This lack of adequate data affects the reliability of PG&E’s risk estimates in two important ways: first, it may result in the underestimate of the frequency of seismic events of various peak ground motion acceleration rates; and second, if the Shoreline Fault or another fault is located directly beneath the Diablo Canyon plant, an earthquake could cause surface fault rupture, large ground velocity, and large ground displacement as well as strong acceleration.”
SLOMP and Dr. Jackson also contend that PG&E’s assumption that all earthquakes are on known faults is outdated, having been repudiated repeatedly by experience. Major earthquakes frequently occur away from previously known faults, the 1994 Northridge earthquake in southern California being one example.
SLOFMP also argued that the Board erred by allowing PG&E to confine its analysis of alternative sources of electricity during the Diablo Canyon license renewal term. The ASLB accepted PG&E’s argument that the only viable alternative to running Diablo Canyon would involve reliance on high-carbon natural gas. In fact, as SLOMFP demonstrated, Diablo Canyon can be replaced by a combination of renewable energy sources, energy efficiency and demand-side management. These alternative energy sources are burgeoning in California and will be available by 2024 when the Diablo Canyon license expires. SLOMFP’s argument is backed up by research of its expert witness on alternative energies, Mark Cooper.
The three legal documents filed by Attorney Curran on September 14 are available on the website of San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace:
On August 6, 2015, the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) rejected SLOMFP’s new contentions opposing PG&E’s application for license renewal of the Diablo Canyon nuclear reactors near San Luis Obispo.
The ASLB's rejection of SLOMFP's contention that nuclear power is neither needed nor practical for 21st Century energy needs in California reveals archaic thinking. SLOMFP’s expert witness on alternatives, Mark Cooper, makes the case that alternative sources of energy are available at lower cost and without the level of environmental risk posed by radioactive wastes now. And California is committed to the goal of relying on renewable sources for 33 percent of energy by 2020. Mark Cooper’s findings are accessible at http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML1509/ML15096A614.pdf
In its seismic contention SLOMFP made the case that PG&E’s 2015 seismic hazards analysis relies on outdated or unjustified methods and assumptions. For details see http://mothersforpeace.org/data/2015/2015-07-31-mfp-amendment-to-seismic-contention
Just as the NRC averted its eyes from the Hosgri Fault when it granted PG&E permission to operate Diablo in 1984, the NRC has chosen to ignore recent data and models showing that earthquakes on given faults may be much larger than previously assumed.
SLOMFP has other litigation pending. One is a collaborative petition which asserts that the NRC violates the National Environmental Protection Act in decisions about the continued storage of high-level radioactive waste. Read more at: