Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Why Diablo Canyon is Safe from Earthquake and Tsunami

Every once in a while NEI's media team has to call out a journalist for egregiously unbalanced coverage. Today is one such day. Jenner Deal, “reporting” for Business Insider, produced a wildly unbalanced video, replete with anti-nuclear activist views and horror-film ominous sound, in labeling the Diablo Canyon Power Plant a "Fukushima waiting to happen."

The report wasn't entirely erroneous -- Deal got Diablo's acreage, location, and surrounding population correct. But thereafter her reporting lapses badly into anti-nuclear activism. "Many fear that a single earthquake could cause a repeat of the 2011 Fukushima disaster," Deal claims in the intro to her video. Actually, very few outside of California's anti-nuclear activist community do; scores of independent geologists and seismologists who've studied the site do not. Nor does the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which has the authority to shut down Diablo Canyon or any other nuclear power plant in the U.S. if it isn't operating safely.

In attempting to link Diablo Canyon with Fukushima Daichii, Deal omits a number of important distinctions. Most basically, she fails to thoroughly examine that seismic and tsunami safety are continually evaluated at Diablo Canyon. In March 2015, two new studies confirmed that the plant’s design can withstand severe natural events, including earthquakes and tsunamis. For example, a new tsunami study predicts that the largest wave that could impact the plant site is about 30 feet high. Diablo Canyon sits 85 feet above sea level. Compare that to Daichii, which resided just 20 feet above ocean level. And Diablo, like all of the U.S. fleet, has notable backup safety systems in place that Japanese plants in 2011 did not.

It's also worth noting that as Japan begins to restart its commercial nuclear operations this fall that industry there incorporated many of the best safety practices long in place at nuclear plants in the U.S. Nuclear energy facilities here were designed and built with extra safety margin, in part to be able to withstand an earthquake even beyond the strongest ever recorded in the region for each site. And over the past decades, each time new seismic information became available, plant operators have confirmed, and in many cases, enhanced the facility’s seismic protection.

Diablo Canyon, located along California’s Central Coast, is understandably a subject of interest when it comes to seismic and tsunami safety. However, the plant is unique in that it maintains a Long Term Seismic Program, staffed with professional scientists, who continually partner with independent experts to ensure the plant is safe. As a result of this program, the seismic region around the plant is perhaps the most studied and understood seismic region in the country.

Between 2010-2013, PG&E conducted advanced seismic research by land and sea to further document the seismic characteristics of the fault zones in the region surrounding Diablo Canyon. The final report, completed in 2014, has given scientists and regulators an unprecedented view into the earth’s crust that significantly increases our understanding of the seismic characteristics near Diablo Canyon. Most importantly, it confirmed that the plant remains seismically safe.

It’s unfortunate that Deal either glossed over these facts or decided not to pursue them altogether. Her final product invites the interpretation that the fix was in for a hit piece from the beginning.

For a truly informative treatment of how Diablo Canyon was designed to withstand natural events, check out this video:  

1 comment:

jimwg said...

An excellent review report that should but never get get more fair play by anti-nuke FUD-mongers the mainstream media.

In a related way I just found that the Hall of Science here in NYC has a perm display exhibit of this ditty:

I thought science was supposed to be factual and neutral yet there's absolutely no counter-weight to this flick where thousands of school kids are exposed and brainwashed by it every week. In fact there's no nuclear ANYTHING in the Hall of Science(!), but LOTS of solar and windmill and recycle stuff to stuff back on. No wonder Indian Point is having to battle FUD with its hand tied behind its back. This is also the haunt of Neil deGrasse Tyson in case you want to know where the heads of the Hall's administrators is coming from.

A heads-up and a FUD-busting PR mission to all nuclear advocacy organizations.

James Greenidge
Queens NY