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Is the NRC abandoning California?
by Ruth Stevens
Thursday Mar 24th, 2011 3:11 AM
Early this week the NRC made a strong commitment to Governor Cuomo of New York to start their seismic safety review with reactors at Indian Plant. Cuomo has been concerned about the safety of that plant since at least 2007. As the state's attorney general he took the NRC to task for not inspecting Indian plant with an eye to the safety of the New York City metro area.

Yet California has two nuclear energy sites that lie in seismic zones that could generate much larger earthquakes than could happen at Indian plant. Nuclear power plants in Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and elsewhere, all places where earthquakes are far less likely to occur than on the California coast, are included in the published list of 27 reactors the NRC will investigate in their first round of reviews. Nuclear energy plants in California are notably absent from that list.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is designed to be an independent regulator of commercially used nuclear power. The NRC is made up of five commissioners, nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate to serve staggered five-year terms. No more than three commissioners can be from the same political party, similar to the selection process for the FCC.

After an earthquake and tsunami triggered nuclear power plant explosions in Japan, the NRC dispatched experts to provide advice and assistance in their effort to shut down the reactors. Now their task is to take a hard look at US nuclear reactors; many are of the same or similar design as the Japanese reactors in Fukushima Prefecture.

According to the Financial Times, NRC spokesperson Beth Hayden said that the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission will first conduct a seismic risk assessment of 27 nuclear power units at 17 plants. named those 27 reactors. California reactors did NOT make the list.

The NRC reported these nuclear units will receive the seismic review next year: Indian Point 2, Indian Point 3, Limerick 1, Limerick 2, Peach Bottom 2, Peach Bottom 3, Seabrook, Crystal River 3, Farley 1, Farley 2, North Anna 1, North Anna 2, Oconee 1, Oconee 2, Oconee 3, St. Lucie 1, St. Lucie 2, Sequoyah 1, Sequoyah 2, Summer, Watts Bar 1, Dresden 2, Dresden 3, Duane Arnold, Perry 1, River Bend and Wolf Creek.

California senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein were pro-active soon after the Japanese earthquake. They wrote to NRC chairman Gregory Jaczko asking that the NRC inspect both the Diablo Canyon and San Onofre nuclear units in California saying they are concerned because the plants are near earthquake faults.

Why is the NRC not putting California plants, in high seismic activity zones, on their first review list?

The Shoreline Fault, near San Luis Obispo's El Diablo Plant, could generate a 7.7 magnitude earthquake. San Francisco Bay Area residents are wondering why the NRC appears to have abandoned California. The densely populated Bay Area is only about 200 miles from El Diablo.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by DrStrangelov
Thursday Mar 24th, 2011 9:57 AM
The reasons I suspect the NRC has excluded the 2 California sites (having worked at one), are two fold: 1) These plants are Pressurized Water Reactors - not Boiling Water Reactors as noted by Fukushima. In fact, the reactors noted in the NRC study include Hope Creek, where I also worked. The lessons learned if any for plant modifications do not apply. After TMI, the older San Onofre Unit 1, now decommissioned, was retrofit with applicable backfits at tremendous costs.

2) The California plants have ALLREADY had seismic scruitiny to the "nth" degree. Has it ever occured to any rational, sane person that the NRC would never license any power reactor that would be vulnerable to a beyond design basis earthquake? The NRC has in fact, gave these sites a thourough look. In fact, this may surprise your readers but there is NO power plant designed to a specific Richter scale anywhere. What everyone is missing is "ground acceleration". I believe these plants are designed to 0.7 g which also is indicative of a margin of safety. The type of earthquake in Japan is a "subduction fault" earthquake that is not possible in California because the Earth's geology is not the same.

So its apples and oranges to say "Fukushima had withstood a 9.0 (but the 70-ft tsunami did in the diesels) but the California plants only a 7.5??

California's nuclear plants are very safe. The NRC will get to these. The lawmakers may want lipservice but the NRC shows engineering wisdom first in the priorities in inspecting those older reactors.

Now also, just because our reactors are of the same design, doesnt mean they were built similarly. The architect/engineers for Fukushima were no doubt Japanese.
by m
Thursday Mar 24th, 2011 10:05 AM
This two-part timeline of the history of PG&E's Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant is eye-opening:
by ...NOT!
Thursday Mar 24th, 2011 11:38 AM
Looks like the Nuclear Energy Fan Club has found the indybay site. Have a nice visit!
by 4 overconfident engineers
Thursday Mar 24th, 2011 12:01 PM
"At a legislative hearing Monday, state lawmakers challenged what they called the overconfidence of engineers and plant employees...."

What about overconfident nuclear physicists?