Shut down Diablo Canyon

The nuclear-power plant isn’t designed to withstand earthquakes possible at that site

Is the Diablo Canyon nuclear-power plant safe? That question has been asked of the facility on the coast near San Luis Obispo since its construction.

The plant has always been troubled, mostly because it was built before the full extent of earthquake faults in the area was known. Recently, it has become increasingly clear that these faults are capable of creating ground motion that’s beyond what the reactors are designed to handle.

Pacific Gas & Electric, the owner of Diablo Canyon, is currently seeking a 20-year licensing renewal from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Because of the catastrophe at Fukushima—a similar seaside plant near fault lines—the licensing was delayed so the utility could prepare an updated seismic study. Not surprisingly, PG&E’s researchers found that the aging facility could withstand any earthquake the local faults could generate. This is, of course, the same utility that assured customers its natural-gas lines were safe, until one blew up in San Bruno, killing eight people.

On Aug. 25, the environmental group Friends of the Earth went public with a report by Dr. Michael Peck, former senior resident inspector at Diablo Canyon for the NRC. Peck asserts that three of the nearby faults are capable of generating quakes stronger than the reactors were designed to withstand. Diablo Canyon should be shut down until PG&E can prove the reactors are safe, he insists.

There are a half-million people living within 50 miles of the plant, millions more to the south. The danger is too great. Besides, it’s time to replace nuclear power with safe, sustainable power like solar and wind.