Groups continue to fight to stop Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) license renewal and keep the nuclear plant on track to close by 2024 and 2025
On April 28, Mothers for Peace (MFP), Friends of the Earth (FoE) and Environmental Working Group (EWG) filed a petition with the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals challenging the NRC’s unprecedented decision to grant PG&E an exemption from submitting a license renewal application for the Diablo Canyon Unit 1 and Unit 2 nuclear reactors.
MFP attorney, Diane Curran, said, “In permitting the licensing of nuclear reactors, Congress never envisioned that any reactor would operate past its initial 40-year limit without thoroughly vetting the safety and environmental impacts of continued operation and allowing the public to participate in the process.” She added, “The implications of this decision are alarming and have sparked concern among experts and the public.”
“We are dismayed to find ourselves appealing NRC’s unlawful decision to grant such a dangerous exemption to PG&E,” said Hallie Templeton, Legal Director at FoE. “Rules around nuclear power are there for a clear reason: to protect people and the planet from another tragic Fukushima or Chernobyl disaster. Yet, in blatant violation of federal law, NRC has brushed the risks aside so Diablo Canyon can continue operating its outdated reactors near multiple seismic faults. We are doing everything in our power to hold these decisionmakers accountable.”
Caroline Leary, attorney for Environmental Working Group, said “These decrepit and dangerous reactors should not be allowed to operate for even one day past their retirement dates unless the safety of their future operation is assured, which is clearly not a top priority at the NRC after it rubber-stamped PG&E’s request to keep the plant running without a safety review.”
In a separate action, on May 2, MFP filed comments on an NRC draft environmental impact statement. The group contends that the NRC has relied on a PG&E-sponsored seismic analysis that significantly underestimates the rate and proximity of potential earthquakes that could affect the Diablo Canyon nuclear reactors.
In a legal declaration supporting the comments, Peter Bird, Professor Emeritus, Department of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, said, “The evaluation done by PG&E did not take into account or incorporate certain up-to-date scientific developments (e.g., GPS and computer modeling) in estimating the activity of the faults that the Diablo Canyon plant sits among.” He concluded: “PG&E’s failure to utilize these modern methods led to incomplete and biased results, both in terms of underestimated tectonic strain rates and overestimated minimum distances of active faults from Diablo Canyon.”
Diablo Canyon is situated on a web of earthquake fault lines, similar to those that caused a 7.8 quake in Turkey earlier this year that killed around 50,000 people. According to the New York Times, scientists have indicated that the seismic zones are “strikingly similar to the San Andreas Fault in California.”
Linda Seeley, spokesperson for MFP said, “If a Turkey-like earthquake were to occur on the California coast, the devastation would be compounded by a radiological accident, potentially including large quantities of Cesium from spent fuel storage pools.” She asserted, “The NRC must do a thorough seismic review using up-to-date technology.”