On Friday, January 27, the San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace (SLOMFP), through Ojai-based attorney Sabrina Venskus, submitted expert testimony to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) calling to shut down Diablo in 2019, not 2024, because it is becoming unsafe and unreliable. SLOMFP’s expert witness is nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen, chief engineer for Fairewinds Associates, Inc.
“Diablo Canyon was designed in the mid-1960s. Some of its parts are as dated as rabbit ears on a black and white TV. This atomic power reactor is old and tired, and it is not reliable or safe. The faster Diablo Canyon closes, the safer Californians will be,” stated Mr. Gundersen. Replacement costs for these outmoded parts at Diablo Canyon during the next 7 to 8 years are well in excess of a reasonable investment for a plant that is scheduled to shut down in 2024. Mr. Gundersen’s testimony also illuminates the degraded condition of tens of thousands of often neglected switches, plates, springs, shock absorbers, pipes, and other components of this aged atomic power reactor that are in danger of failing well before 2024.
Shut Down Diablo Sooner, not Later
The companies that own nuclear reactors have a tendency to defer needed maintenance and replacement of worn parts when a permanent closure is imminent. Called “running to failure,” the operator tends to take a chance that the part won’t fail before the plant closes down. In an old car that is ready for the junkyard, the owner won’t replace worn tires with ones that are guaranteed for 50,000 miles. Instead, he will take the chance that the tires won’t blow out before the old car is junked. If there’s a blowout in a tire, it can be hazardous. If there’s a failure of an essential component of a nuclear power plant, the costs of replacement or of repair of damage can be huge.
Mr. Gundersen’s testimony, attached below, cites numerous parts and components of Diablo Canyon that have been listed in the 2017 Rate Case by Pacific Gas and Electric as in need of replacement. In Mr. Gundersen’s opinion, shutting the doors of the two reactors makes sense in 2019, before parts and components are forced to run to failure.
SLOMFP is commenting as a party to the California Public Utilities Commission’s proceedings on the Joint Proposal reached in June of 2016 between PG&E and several environmental groups and unions. SLOMFP has also submitted expert testimony to the CPUC by David Jackson, Ph.D., regarding seismic damage to the plant in case of an earthquake. SLOMFP has joined with Women’s Energy Matters of Marin County regarding timing and costs of replacing the needed power at Diablo Canyon with renewable energy, using the testimony of energy analyst Robert Freehling. SLOMFP compiled documents regarding the environmental effects of Once-Through Cooling on aquatic life around the facility. By co-sponsoring a portion of the testimony by the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility’s attorney Al Pak, SLOMFP is objecting to PG&E’s request to recover the costs of its relicensing application filed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2009 that was later withdrawn.