What are the current issues involving Diablo Canyon and what is Mothers for Peace doing about them?
Diablo Canyon nuclear plant was scheduled to retire in 2024 and 2025. However, Senate Bill 846 passed in 2022 has enabled extended operation. State and federal subsidies have been granted to support this effort. Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) has applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for a 20-year license extension, although SB 846 asks for only five years.
The NRC exempted PG&E from its Timely Renewal Rule, disregarding its own rules by approving continued operation of the Diablo Canyon reactors past their expiration dates without the required environmental reviews or opportunity for public hearings. PG&E may operate the reactors indefinitely until such time as the NRC makes a decision on the license renewal application.
Embrittlement – Unit 1’s reactor vessel was built with faulty material so is much more vulnerable to embrittlement than Unit 2. An embrittled reactor vessel can shatter like glass and cause a catastrophic meltdown. Despite awareness of this, PG&E has not tested for embrittlement for over 20 years – and the NRC has approved the exemptions. The next plan is to test in 2025 with results available in 2026.
The California Public Utilities Commission has approved extended operation without all the information required by SB 846 – and despite evidence that Diablo’s energy is not needed to avoid summer blackouts.
Mothers for Peace, in collaboration with other allied organizations, is working hard to stop this license extension and close the plant as scheduled. We are doing this on multiple fronts.
1. Diane Curran represents us before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission;
2. Sabrina Venskus represents us before the California Public Utilities Commission;
3. Linda Krop from Environmental Defense Center manages ocean issues involving the California Coastal Commission and the Regional Water Quality Control Board.
Isn’t nuclear energy clean and a partial climate solution?
Fact #1: Nuclear energy has a large carbon footprint from uranium mining, milling, fuel enrichment, waste storage, decommissioning…
Fact #2: Nuclear energy is not clean. It is toxic and dangerous. Radiation is routinely released into the air and water, there is no storage solution for its waste, and accidents happen!
Fact #3: Nuclear energy is not reliable in a climate-disrupted world; its demands on water are not compatible with a warming planet.
Fact #4: Nuclear energy is too expensive. The nuclear industry is able to survive only because of huge taxpayer subsidies.
Fact #5: Nuclear energy impedes the development of renewable energy sources. An efficient, responsive, and flexible grid is required to respond to energy demands. Nuclear cannot adapt to changing demands.
Fact #6: Given the climate crisis, we can ’t wait. We need to move rapidly to an efficient, low-cost, sustainable energy system.
Are there other chapters of Mothers for Peace in California, the other states, or in the world?
No. San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace is a local organization. In order to have legal standing to intervene in Diablo Canyon licensing decisions, the majority of its members must live within a 50 mile radius of the plant.
If you live beyond the 50 mile radius, you might consider becoming an Ambassador for Mothers for Peace. (Go to Join Us for more information.) We appreciate people working in other communities to educate others and raise funds for our legal intervention.
There are other groups with similar names like “Another Mother for Peace” and “Grandmothers for Peace” – but they have no affiliation to us.
How long has the Mothers for Peace been in existence?
The San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace came together in 1969. A young mother had written a letter to the editor of the local newspaper asking that people who shared her sadness and frustration at the needless loss of life in the Vietnam War join her in searching out ways to act effectively as a group. As the war wound down and MFP learned more about the nuclear plant being built nearby and the connections between nuclear waste and nuclear weapons, MFP turned our attention to the many issues raised by the Diablo Canyon reactors and waste storage facilities. The shared values and compelling need to act that originally brought the group together have continued to characterize the Mothers for Peace.
Do you have to be a mother to be a member?
No! Its members include mothers, grandmothers, and non-parents. Its membership is predominantly, but not exclusively, women. Men are welcome!
How many people are actively working in the group?
There are approximately 30 people working within the group and several thousand supporters.
How do I become a member?
If you are interested in becoming a member or a supporter of Mothers for Peace, go to the Contact Us page and send us an email!
Is there any paid staff?
No. Mothers for Peace is an all-volunteer organization. We raise funds to pay for the services of our attorneys, experts, and consultants.
How long has the Mothers for Peace been involved with Diablo Canyon?
Since 1973, the Mothers for Peace has focused much of its attention on the local dangers involving Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant. It has been the legal intervenor for decades of controversy concerning the construction, licensing, and operation of the Diablo Canyon facility. The organization utilizes all legal means to ensure safe operation and compliance with State and Federal Laws.
What other kinds of activities is the Mothers for Peace involved in?
In addition to its “watchdog‟ role of Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant and legal intervention, Mothers for Peace:
- works to educate its members and others using such means as forums, films, lectures, marches, rallies, vigils, and social media such as its website and Facebook page.
- awards yearly scholarships to high school seniors and college students whose career plans and community work demonstrate serious commitment to caring for the earth or promoting world peace.
- makes a yearly donation of a set of children’s books promoting the cause of peace, social justice, and equality to the San Luis Obispo library system.
What are the problems with nuclear power in general and the Diablo Canyon plant in particular?
High level radioactive waste is the Achilles’ heel of the nuclear industry. It remains toxic for a million years, and there is no permanent storage solution. After years of controversy and despite the billions of dollars spent at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, the project has been abandoned. The waste is therefore stored onsite in open pools and dry casks which have been designed for temporary storage only.
The pools are tightly packed with a potential for a severe fire and catastrophic radiological release if partially drained due to terrorism, accident, or natural disaster (as we saw in Fukushima). These pools are vulnerable to sabotage, for there is no containment structure.
After a minimum of five years in the pools, the waste can be placed in dry casks. These casks are also vulnerable to sabotage and natural disaster.
Reprocessing the waste is not a viable option. In order to reprocess uranium and plutonium in power plants, spent fuel has to be treated to chemically separate these elements from other highly radioactive byproducts. As it chops and dissolves used fuel rods, a reprocessing plant releases about 15 thousand times more radioactivity into the environment than nuclear power reactors. Reprocessing is not recycling; the most dangerous elements still require isolation.
Nuclear reactors supply plutonium for nuclear weapons. Nuclear power plants typically produce a net of about 200 kilograms of plutonium per year for each 1,000 megawatts of electric power generating capacity. Diablo Canyon reactors have produced over 25,000 pounds of plutonium thus far.
Nuclear power is expensive. Conservative estimates of the costs to operate a nuclear plant range between $6 and $12 billion per reactor and is predicted to rise. It is also heavily subsidized by the Federal Government in loan guarantees for construction, funds for research and development, and the search for a solution to the problem of radioactive waste storage. Insurance in the event of a major disaster – the Price-Anderson Act – requires the nuclear industry to pay for only the first $10 billion for deaths, injuries, and property. It is not possible to insure your personal property in the event of a radioactive release.
The Department of Homeland Security, the CIA, and the FBI have determined that nuclear facilities are targets of terrorists. Nuclear power plants were certainly not designed to withstand attacks by large airliners loaded with fuel, such as those that crashed into the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Diablo Canyon is a particularly vulnerable target of terrorism because it is located on an exposed and unprotected portion of the California coast and is susceptible to airborne and waterborne assaults.
Diablo Canyon is located in a seismically active zone. There are multiple faults in the area – a minimum of 13. The Shoreline Fault is located 300 meters from the intake structure and 600 meters from the power block. The Hosgri Fault is less than three miles offshore, and it may intersect with the Shoreline Fault. There is new evidence to show that the earthquake faults in the vicinity are vertical thrust faults, meaning they could cause much more ground motion than formerly estimated.
Diablo Canyon is an old plant with aging components. It was designed in the 1960s. Construction began in the late 1960s and continued into the 70s and 80s. Diablo didn’t begin operation until 1984. The plant was old before it began operation. It’ll be over 60 years old at the end of the license renewal period in 2024 and 2025.
Diablo Canyon’s Once-Through Cooling System is out of compliance with the Clean Water Act. The facility circulates 2.5 billion gallons of seawater each day, releasing it back into the ocean 20º warmer and killing more than one billion fish in early life stages in the process. The State Water Resources control Board has approved multiple waivers over the years.
What kinds of litigation has the Mothers for Peace been involved in?
Mothers for Peace plays a unique role as intervenor in litigation involving licensing, seismic safety, high level radioactive waste storage, consequences of a terrorist attack, and opposition to PG&E’s 20-year license renewal for Diablo Canyon.
Don’t we need the power from Diablo Canyon?
Civilization without nuclear power is possible. Mothers for Peace promotes conservation and sustainable sources of energy.
What can I do to help Mothers for Peace?
There are several ways you can assist the Mothers for Peace and serve as Ambassadors to educate others in the community.
- Donate money to help with the costs of legal intervention.
- Volunteer to help with fund-raising and event-planning. Such volunteers would not be expected to attend general meetings or to become experts on technical or legal issues.
- Invite a spokesperson from Mothers for Peace to come and speak at your book club, service organization, or any group that would be interested. Contact: Jane Swanson, 805.440.1359 or email@example.com
- Share your concerns about nuclear power with your friends and let them know why you are a supporter of Mothers for Peace. Direct them to our website and our Facebook page.
- Consider planned giving. Mothers for Peace is a partner of Leave a Legacy on the Central Coast, and there is much helpful information about how to make provisions in estate planning at this website.
Radiation that may be released from Diablo doesn’t stop at its gate; nature pays no attention to borders. The work you do now to stop nuclear power is a gift to future generations.