Don’t count on Diablo

New Times SLO | Link to article

License renewal is not a foregone conclusion

“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!” bellowed an increasingly panicked Wizard of Oz after feisty Toto and his intrepid companions had blown the cover on the pugnacious imposter. Behind a fearsome façade of smoke and mirrors, this “wizard” managed to rule a mythical paradise through fear and intimidation. In a modern remake released last week—minus the Technicolor trappings—Sen. Barbara Boxer and San Luis Obispo’s former state Sen. Dr. Sam Blakeslee (also a former Exxon geophysicist who headed the Republican caucus when he served in the Assembly) pulled back the curtain on the myth of seismic safety at the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, a charade that PG&E and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have been casting like a spell over the Oz-like serenity of the Central Coast.

With his cogent testimony before Sen. Boxer and 26 pages of supporting documentation, Dr. Blakeslee exposed the mathematical shell game that PG&E is playing with the results of their “Final Seismic Report.” That report, released in September, was in fulfillment of Blakeslee’s AB 1632 of 2006.

Blakeslee notes PG&E’s historic neglect for the presence of earthquake faults near Diablo, which led to cost overruns and delays in the original construction of the plant. More significantly, when the major threat of the Hosgri fault was finally acknowledged, more than 80 percent of the plant had been built. Rather than re-evaluate the true danger and possibly cancel the plant, PG&E, with the NRC’s acquiescence, began a policy of reverse engineering their earthquake ground motion prediction formulas to make them fit within the mathematical boundaries of what had already been built. Often this required the use of arcane experimental “models” with little or no real world evidence or experience. As a result, PG&E was granted an exception for the Hosgri fault from the license’s conservative assumptions for soil-structure interaction and damping. PG&E has used this loophole ever since to maintain that any ground motion lower than shaking from the Hosgri fault is not a threat. (complete article)