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Dangerous Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, and incompetent Pacific Gas and Electric Co.

Nuclear energy backers say it’s vital for the fight against global warming. Don’t be so sure, Los Angeles Times,  BY MICHAEL HILTZIKBUSINESS COLUMNIST , JAN. 6, 2022  

”……………………………………. Diablo Canyon, which is on the Pacific shoreline about 250 miles south of San Francisco and 190 miles north of Los Angeles, was the third location chosen by Pacific Gas & Electric Co. for a nuclear generating plant starting in the early 1960s.

The previous choices were abandoned because they were judged too close to active earthquake faults — even though PG&E initially asserted in both cases that no faults were nearby. The company then turned to Diablo Canyon, again asserting that there were no active faults within about 20 miles of the site.

As it eventually emerged, there are at least four major active faults within that range, prompting David Brower, the first executive director of the Sierra Club and the founder of Friends of the Earth, to jokingly describe nuclear reactors as “complex technological devices for locating earthquake faults.” (It was the Sierra Club’s endorsement of Diablo Canyon that prompted Brower to resign and form Friends of the Earth.)

With every discovery of a new fault in Diablo Canyon’s vicinity, PG&E minimized the threat and persuaded the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the federal regulator responsible for licensing nuclear plants, to go along.

The NRC’s decision in 1981 to allow construction to proceed after a fault discovery without reexamining the plant’s seismic engineering provoked two commissioners, Peter A. Bradford and Victor Gilinsky, to issue a blistering dissent.

They described the confidence of two NRC advisory boards in the utility’s reassurances as “almost mystical,” and charged that the boards’ rationales for accepting PG&E’s arguments as evidence that neither board “had any idea what it was talking about.”

Then there’s PG&E’s atrocious safety record, which should curdle the blood at the thought of leaving the plant under its control. The company’s consistent failures include the 2010 pipeline explosion that killed eight and leveled an entire residential neighborhood in San Bruno.

PG&E’s equipment sparked more than 1,500 fires from 2014 through 2017, according to state records. In 2020, it pleaded guilty to 84 counts of criminal manslaughter related to the 2018 wildfire that all but destroyed the town of Paradise and ranks as the deadliest blaze in California history.

In September, the company was charged with 11 felonies and 20 misdemeanor counts related to what Shasta County Dist. Atty. Stephanie Bridgett called its “reckless and criminally negligent” operations, resulting in the deaths of four people. (“My co-workers are not criminals,” PG&E Chief Executive Patti Poppe said after the charges were unveiled. “We welcome our day in court so people can learn just that.”)

As recently as Tuesday, California state investigators concluded that a PG&E power line sparked last year’s massive Dixie fire, which burned more than 960,000 acres in five Northern California counties. The investigators referred the case to local criminal prosecutors.

“PG&E seems to be incapable of operating safely,” says Daniel O. Hirsch, a former environmental faculty member at UC Santa Cruz and president of the Committee to Bridge the Gap, an anti-nuclear group. “You’re mixing an incompetent utility with an unforgiving technology.”……………………..

January 8, 2022 - Posted by | Legal, Reference, safety, USA

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