WASHINGTON – Federal regulators need to reassess seismic standards at California’s last operating nuclear power plant and determine if its operating rules are sufficient in light of earthquake risks, a former California state senator says.
Sam Blakeslee argues in testimony to be submitted Wednesday to a U.S. Senate panel that public safety demands closer scrutiny of Diablo Canyon’s twin reactors, located near several faults on a seaside bluff midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and owner Pacific Gas and Electric Co. have long defended its safety.
“The potential earthquakes affecting the plant have increased with each major study. But what’s equally striking is that the shaking predicted by PG&E for these increasing threats has systematically decreased,” Blakeslee, a geophysicist who left the Legislature in 2012, says in prepared remarks.
The Associated Press reported in August that a senior federal nuclear expert had urged the NRC to shut down the plant until it can determine whether the reactors can withstand shaking from any of several nearby faults not recognized when the plant was constructed decades ago.
The agency rejected the recommendation from Michael Peck, who was the NRC’s lead inspector at the plant for five years. The NRC found there was no immediate or significant safety concern.
The agency’s ruling was issued on the same day that PG&E released hundreds of pages of scientific research that found a fault 650 yards from the reactors is twice as long as initially believed, making it capable of producing potentially stronger earthquakes, and intersections between some faults in the region could create larger earthquakes than previously considered.
PG&E said in a statement that the plant remains seismically safe and able to withstand the largest potential earthquakes.
In his testimony, Blakeslee argues that the company has downplayed risks and criticizes the NRC for largely going along.
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