by Michael Steinberg
Friday, Feb. 27, 2015 at 8:18 PM
On February 20 a Federal Court of Appeals in Washington DC rejected an attempt by Pacific Gas & Electric and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to quash a lawsuit filed by environmental group Friends Of the Earth (FOE).
According to Friends Of the Earth, the suit alleges that the “NRC illegally allowed PG&E to alter Diablo Canyon’s nuclear plant license.
“”FOE contends the NRC acted in secret and collusion with PG&E to hide Diablo Canyon’s vulnerability to earthquakes stronger than it was built to withstand. A decision in favor of Friends of the Earth could result in PG&E having to shut down its reactors, pending a public hearing to examine the new risks at the plant.”
In 2013 Friends of the Earth filed a similar lawsuit against Southern California Edison, owner and operator of the San Onofre nuclear plant in Southern California. That suit alleged Edison was mismanaging and lying about the safety of its plant, thereby putting the public in danger.
The utility permanently shut its plant down in June that year before the lawsuit went to court—leaving the Diablo Canyon the remaining nuke plant operating in California.
Diablo Canyon has been controversial since the beginning. Located on California’s Central coast near San Luis Obispo, and in an earthquake and tsunami zone,
1900 no nukes protesters associated with the Abalone Alliance were arrested in 1981 over a period of two weeks in an attempt to stop its construction.
Several years before that, The China Syndrome, a movie starring Jane Fonda and Michael Douglas, appeared on silver screens across the nation, at least partially inspired by the struggle at Diablo Canon. This was 1979, the year the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster melted down into American consciousness.
And in fact Friends of the Earth itself was founded all the way back in 1969 by environmentalist David Brower because of concerns about the possible construction of Diablo Canyon.
Nevertheless, PG&E started up two reactors at Diablo Canyon, one in ’85, the other the next year.
After the strongest recorded earthquake in Japan’s history in March 2011, followed with a resultant massive tsunami and multiple meltdowns at the Daiichi Fukushima nuke plant, attention began to refocus on Diablo Canyon.
And then, last year, Friends Of the Earth upped the ante. As the group states:
“On August 25, 2014 Friends Of the Earth made public an explosive document, A Differing Professional Opinion, by Dr. Michael Peck, former senior resident inspector for the NRC at Diablo Canyon. This document reveals that three of the nearby faults are capable of generating earthquakes stronger than the reactors are designed to withstand.
“Peck’s dissent argues that Diablo Canyon is operating outside the conditions of its license and should be shut down until PG&E can prove the reactors can withstand potential earthquakes on these faults.”
The three faults are Shoreline, Los Osos, and San Luis Bay. Shoreline wasn’t even discovered until 2008, and is less than a mile from Diablo Canyon.
FOE also reported that the NRC suppressed Peck’s report for nearly a year. And after Peck’s report did go public, PG&E and the NRC both tried to dismiss it out of hand.
In addition, FOE said that a radioactive plume escaping Diablo Canyon due to a nuclear accident, “should southerly winds prevail, could threaten millions in Southern California, from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles and beyond.”
FOE expects a decision on its lawsuit “later this year.”
Momentum for shutting down Diablo Canyon has been building. On January 24 and 25 a statewide conference met in San Luis Obispo “to strategize on how to fight for a nuclear free California.” Participants included the local chapter of Mothers For Peace.
And a similar meeting happened on January 27 in San Francisco.
Meanwhile, as the fourth anniversary of the Fukushima disaster approaches, news emerged from Energy News on February 25 that high level nuclear waste from on top of melted down Fukushima reactor #2 was flowing directly into the Pacific Ocean—and had been for the past 8 months, with the knowledge of Fukushima owner and operator TEPCO.