Committed to shutting down Diablo Canyon reactors – sunset for nuclear power in California.

Monthly Archives: June 2015

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[Eds. note: Was reminded of this article while reading nuclear whistleblower Bob Rowen’s excellent MY HUMBOLDT DIARY: A True Story of the Betreyal of Public Trust ]

From the San Francisco Bay Guardian October 16, 2002

PG&E, corporate criminal

The utility likes to pretend it’s a good corporate citizen – but the record shows otherwise.
By Savannah Blackwell

WHEN IRISH IMMIGRANTS arrived on San Francisco’s shores during the first few decades of the past century, it wasn’t easy for them to find decent, stable jobs. John Hanley, the president of the local firefighters union, likes to say that for many the only options were the police department, the fire department and Pacific Gas and Electric Co.

PG&E has played hard on its reputation from those days, using stories like Hanley’s to push blue-collar workers to oppose public power. The company has spent millions on other public relations efforts: for years, PG&E representatives talked about all the widows and orphans who were living off company stock, and hyped the money the company gave to local charities.

But the image of PG&E as a fine, benevolent, and upstanding corporate citizen is long gone.

Today, with PG&E’s stock in free fall, the small shareholders who had hoped to use the utility’s stock as part of their retirement income are in trouble – while the same executives who drove the company into bankruptcy are earning multimillion-dollar bonuses.

The charitable contributions that once helped buy PG&E political protection have dried up.

And over the past few years, PG&E’s most lasting legacy has become that of a corporate criminal.

Consider:

� In 1997 PG&E was tried and convicted in criminal court for endangering the lives and property of gold country residents by failing to trim tree branches near electrical wires frequently enough to prevent major fires. Evidence showed that PG&E executives had diverted tree-trimming money to fatten profits and salaries of top corporate executives.

� The story of the company’s poisoning of community water supplies in Hinkley became a major Hollywood movie called Erin Brockovich, and a similar environmental disaster is still underway just south of San Francisco. Meanwhile, residents of the Bayview-Hunters Point district in San Francisco are suffering from alarmingly high rates of asthma and other illnesses that they link to PG&E’s dirty power plant in the neighborhood (see “Poison Power,” 1/28/98). In addition, the nearby Potrero power plant, which PG&E sold to Mirant Corp. in 1998, is scheduled for expansion.

� PG&E stole nearly $200,000 from San Francisco by illegally running its power lines to the Presidio, according to a 1995 lawsuit the city filed against the company. Indeed, PG&E’s service to San Francisco residents is illegal, according to the terms of the 1913 Raker Act, which requires the city to operate a public power system. The company’s monopoly has led to decades of structural corruption at City Hall (see “How PG&E Wires the City,” page 26)….
The list goes on…Read more

Please download poster PDF and circulate

PG&E Diablo flyer 3.9j

The ‘Bellwether Sunshine State’ At the Crossroads
With one of its last two remaining nuclear plants now shutdown, and one more under growing public and legal pressure to follow soon, California now has the opportunity to once again take the lead in the inevitable global transition to renewable energy. The alternative is to risk following Japan into nuclear energy catastrophe brinksmanship.

That was the urgent and empowering take-home message of a community meeting held May 9, 2015 in Malibu, CA, just north of Los Angeles. The meeting was sponsored by the Malibu Democratic Club, and emceed by Solartopia author Harvey Wasserman – whose declared life purpose is to shutdown America’s fleet of aging nuclear power plants, and foster the switch to renewable energy.

Organized by Club President Ann Doneen, and event planner Myla Reson, the well-attended meeting featured presentations by several speakers on the very real risks posed to Malibu by the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, located on the California coast north of Malibu on 13 intersecting earthquake faults, in a tsunami zone, and run by PG&E, a utility facing multiple indictments for safety violations. Conference participants learned about the similarities between the situation at Diablo Canyon and Japan’s on-going Fukushima nuclear disaster. They also learned about California’s unsafe nuclear waste storage canisters, which are much worse than Japan’s dry storage casks.

AND they learned about the very real opportunity California has to lead the way into what Wasserman sees as the potential Solartopian future.

Here are some key video excerpts from the event.

Artist and activist Tom English opened the program with a performance of a song he co-wrote with Myla Reson, ‘What Part of Fukushima Do You Not Understand?’

Keynote speaker Harvey Wasserman, author of Solartopia, laid out the dual focus of the conference: How to shutdown Diablo Canyon and make California a leader in the coming inevitable transition to a solar economy.

Linda Seeley of Mothers For Peace reported on the organization’s 4 decades of persistent fighting to shutdown Diablo. If the I Ching is right, and ‘Persistence Furthers,’ Diablo is doomed.

Donna Gilmore, founder of SanOnofreSafety.org, covered the risks and best available options for storing high-level radioactive waste on-site in corrosive seaside environments, in tsunami and earthquake zones, like those of San Onofre and Diablo Canyon.

Organic winery owner Paul Frey presented documented evidence of the catastrophic damage to California’s agriculture industry, population and environment that would be caused by a nuclear accident at Diablo Canyon.

Richard Mathews, a candidate for the state senate, reported on his campaign to pass legislation mandating the cleanup of the radioactive contamination that still remains in the environment from the 1959 nuclear partial reactor meltdown at Santa Susana near the Simi Valley.

This article is cross-posted at PlanetarianPerspectives.net
==============
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PG&E's aging, ill-managed nuclear reactors at Diablo Canyon are an existential threat to California say Mothers for Peace

PG&E’s aging, ill-managed nuclear reactors at Diablo Canyon are an existential threat to California say Mothers for Peace

PRESS RELEASE
JUNE 10, 2015
PG&E FAILS SAFETY TEST AGAIN

The utility that brought us the San Bruno Gas Explosion, and is under multiple felony indictments for safety violations, is trying to run a nuclear plant and store deadly radioactive fuel rods in a tsunami and earthquake zone. What could possibly go wrong?

San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace calls for immediate additional NRC oversight in the form of two additional inspectors at Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant for at least the next two years.

  • We call for a public NRC investigation into the root cause of the problem.
  • We call for the immediate inspection of all 34 dry casks to look for cracking, warping and escape of radiation into the environment.
  • And we call for the immediate shutdown of the plant until the problem has been fully and completely correcte

Here’s why:

San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace
PO Box 3806
San Luis Obispo, CA 93406
www.mothersforpeace.org

Linda Seeley, Spokesperson
San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace
lindaseeley@gmail.com
805.234.1769

Jane Swanson, Spokesperson
San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace
janeslo@icloud.com
805.440.1359

PG&E Admits Mis-handling of Highly Radioactive Fuel Rods
Over this past weekend, San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace received a bulletin informing us that two spent fuel casks had been loaded improperly at the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant in Avila Beach, CA. Upon further inspection, we discovered that 19 of the 34 dry casks that have been loaded at the Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation (ISFSI) have been loaded IMPROPERLY.

What does this mean for those of us who live near the plant? For the past 15 years or so, PG&E has been using high-burnup fuel – fuel that burns longer in the reactor, and so is much hotter (both in temperature and radioactivity) than the “traditional” nuclear fuel. When high-burnup fuel comes out of the reactor core and is placed in the cooling pools, it needs to have space around it, and it must stay in the cooling pools for AT LEAST 7 years. Even after 7 years, it is hotter than other fuel. (PG&E has not revealed how many of the improperly loaded fuel rods were high-burnup.)

The fuel rods are supposed to be spaced far apart when they are loaded into the dry casks. Here’s where the problem lies: PG&E IMPROPERLY LOADED 19 OF THE 34 DRY CASKS AT DIABLO CANYON. Rather than spacing the fuel rods far apart, technicians loaded the fuel into the CENTER of the dry casks, which causes uneven heat distribution – NOT the distribution that the dry casks are designed for. In 56% of the dry casks now stored on a fragile, earthquake-prone coastline at Diablo Canyon, fuel loading has VIOLATED​ ​TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS.

The heat load caused by improperly loading fuel into dry casks can cause warping of​ the cask lid because of uneven heat distribution inside the cask. Warping can cause exacerbation of cracking around the bolt holes in the cask. If the bolt holes crack, the stainless steel cask (5/8” thick) can crack, the lid can become dislodged, and radiation can escape. If there is sufficient cracking, oxygen can permeate the cask, which has been vacuum-sealed with helium. If oxygen hits the zircaloy cladding on the fuel rods, they can spontaneously ignite, causing an uncontrolled​ ​release of radiation. If that happens, it would be a catastrophe of unprecedented proportion.

What has PG&E done about this? They’ve sharpened up their pencils and shown us that it’s all just “fine.” They report that the “total thermal load has not been exceeded.” No problem!

​Never​ before in the history of US nuclear power has an operator so failed to follow technica​l specifications​​ for spent fuel loading​​. Technical specifications are the nuclear industry’s bible, and they are to be followed precisely. PG&E has CONSISTENTLY ​VIOLATED​ the clear ​instructions that ​they ​​are ordered to adhere to.

Therefore:

San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace calls for immediate additional NRC oversight in the form of two additional inspectors at Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant for at least the next two years.

  • We call for a public NRC investigation into the root cause of the problem.
  • We call for the immediate inspection of all 34 dry casks to look for cracking, warping and escape of radiation into the environment.
  • And we call for the immediate shutdown of the plant until the problem has been fully and completely correcte

Donna Gilmore, founder of SanOnofreSafety.org, addresses the Environmental Caucus of California’s Democratic Party about making California a leader in responsible, “best-available-technology” radioactive waste management.

Donna Gilmore, founder of SanOnofreSafety.org, addresses the Environmental Caucus of California’s Democratic Party about making California a leader in responsible, “best-available-technology” radioactive waste management.


One Woman Thinks So

When Donna Gilmore retired from the stresses of managing critical IT systems in California state government, she chose an upscale seaside town with a year-round perfect climate and bought a home with a perfect view of San Clemente’s sweeping ocean vistas, Dana Point Harbor and Santa Catalina Island.

The city chosen by Richard Nixon as the location for his ‘Western White House,’ San Clemente is a famous tourist mecca and undeniably a city of many charms.

It also happens to border Camp Pendleton, a major strategic US Marine and Navy base.

Oh, and by the way, it’s a close next door neighbor to Southern California Edison’s San Onofre nuclear power plant.

“I thought I’d found the perfect retirement location,” Gilmore says. “And then I found out about the problems at San Onofre.”

Long-story-short –
• SCE ordered a set of new steam generators for its two nuclear reactors from Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries
• The new, huge, souped-up, close to a billion dollar redesigned steam generators were significantly different from those they were replacing. Edison described them to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) as ‘like-for-like,’ so as to avoid having to go through the relicensing review required by law.
• Edison and Mitsubishi executives exchanged now-revealed letters which show they knew at the time of the risks posed by installing the new steam generators.
• The steam generators were installed anyway.
• One leaked radiation within a year and all four showed decades of premature wear in less than two years – the worst record in the nation. This ultimately led to SCE’s June 7th, 2013 decision to permanently shut down and decommission San Onofre’s two reactors.
• Gilmore became increasingly involved in the ultimately successful grassroots campaign which led to the historic San Onofre shutdown, which was spearheaded by San Clemente Green local activists and by Friends of the Earth (FOE) at the national level.

San Onofre nuclear plant – now shutdown, but still a storage site for tons of radioactive waste in an earthquake and tsunami zone, in a heavily populated urban area along a major CA highway. Who should pay for executives’ and regulators' mistakes? Is this a preview of what will happen when Diablo is shut down?

San Onofre nuclear plant – now shutdown, but still a storage site for tons of radioactive waste in an earthquake and tsunami zone, in a heavily populated urban area along a major CA highway. Who should pay for executives’ and regulators’ mistakes? Is this a preview of what will happen when Diablo is shut down?

Inconvenient Data
In the process, Donna drew on her IT and data research skills to found the now exhaustive web information resource SanOnofreSafety.org. Then, as the euphoria of victory began to fade, another inconvenient truth begin to dawn: over 1600 metric tons of highly radioactive so-called ‘spent fuel’ from the plant’s years of operation had accumulated on-site, and is slated to be stored there for the foreseeable future – in an active earthquake and potential tsunami zone between the major population centers of Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties – because, with no Federal radioactive waste repository or interim storage sites yet established, it has nowhere else to go.

OK. As a retired state agency manager, Gilmore assumes that those in charge will naturally be planning to employ the safest, most robust, best technology available to store highly radioactive materials, known to be deadly for millions of years, in the highly corrosive seaside environment of San Onofre. No expense should be too great to protect the population, the residential and industrial environments, the nationally and globally vital agricultural growing regions of Southern California, and the economic stability of the 5th largest economy in the world.

Right?

Wrong.

The ‘San Onofre Syndrome’ – Will it Spread?
Gilmore’s investigative research – shaped by years of critical systems analysis and management experience, and a commitment to the citing of reputable sources for every assertion of fact – shows that, far from rising to the challenge and opportunity of choosing the best available international radwaste storage technology, SCE and NRC officials are so far opting for inferior technology.

Will California’s scandal-plagued Public Utilities Commission step into the breach and refuse funding to inadequate and financially risky radwaste storage technologies?

Diablo is Next
And what about Diablo Canyon – on the coast between Santa Barbara and San Francisco – now California’s ‘last commercial nuke standing?’

Operated by PG&E, a company now under Federal and state investigations and felony indictments for criminal mismanagement of its gas facilities, Diablo Canyon should be shut down for multiple NRC seismic and fire safety violations as well as non-compliance with California’s ‘Once-through-Cooling’ law. Its on-site accumulation of tons of radioactive waste will also have to be stored into the indefinite future in a tsunami zone over 13 active, intersecting earthquake faults.

In exposing the inadequacy of current utility and regulatory approaches to radwaste storage, Gilmore has also pointed the way to “best technology available” alternatives and standards.

California Could Lead
If adopted by California, the strategies Gilmore is advocating could help set the national standards for responsible on-site management of radioactive waste that will be left behind by the world’s obsolete nuclear energy industry, which now shows signs of being in terminal decline from an overdose of inexorable ‘market forces.’

Video Clips:
Gilmore at the Malibu Democratic Club

Gilmore at the Coastal Commission in Santa Barbara

Gilmore at the CA Democratic Convention

To find out more: SanOnofreSafety.org

This article is cross-posted at PlanetarianPerspectives.org

==============
Check out the preview of EON’s forthcoming documentary SHUTDOWN at ShutdownDoc.TV

If you like EON’s work, you can support it, whatever your budget level, here.

San Onofre nuclear plant – now shutdown, but still a storage site for tons of radioactive waste in an earthquake and tsunami zone, in a heavily populated urban area along a major CA highway. Who should pay for executives’ and regulators' mistakes? Is this a preview of what will happen when Diablo is shut down?

San Onofre nuclear plant – now shutdown, but still a storage site for tons of radioactive waste in an earthquake and tsunami zone, in a heavily populated urban area along a major CA highway. Who should pay for executives’ and regulators’ mistakes? Is this a preview of what will happen when Diablo is shut down?

Stick It to the Ratepayers? ‘Not so fast,’ says San Diego attorney team

A once – and (hopefully) future – leader in planetarian energy policy, California is, at the moment, an epicenter of energy policy conflicts, confusion and corruption.

It’s Public Utilities Commission – born of early 20th century populist outrage at Robber Barron’s criminality in the hope of protecting the public good against the onslaught of corporate greed and criminality – has now succumbed to the Iron Law of Regulatory Corruption and is due for a major institutional shake-up.

[This article is cross-posted on PlanetarianPerspectives.net ]

Mired in multiple federal, state and local, investigations and evidence-based alligations of major corruption, ex parte communications, and backroom dealings between Commission officials and the executives of the monopoly utilities they are supposed to be regulating, the CPUC has circled the wagons and hired a top-of-the-line million dollar law firm to defend it against advocates of the public interest.

In the center of this controversy are law partners Maria (Mia) Severson and Mike Aguirre – both of them former San Diego City Attorneys.

Representing a ratepayer client, the Severson-Aguirre team has waged a relentless legal battle which has helped expose the utter dysfunctionality and corruption of California’s current energy regulatory regime.

Their work, along with organizations like the San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace, the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility, EMR Safety Network, and Friends of the Earth (FoE), has helped force the release of a spate of e-mails revealing a deep systemic pattern of collusion and corruption between utility executives and Commission officials and staff, consistently aligned against the public interest.

The massive e-mail releases – not yet fully analyzed by researchers and investigators – call into serious question the legality and validity of all the recent rulings of the CPUC, including those relating to San Onofre, Diablo Canyon and the deployment of electro-toxic, wireless, privacy-violating, so-called ‘smart meters.’

The illegal attempt to foist the bulk of the costs of the Southern California Edison/Mitsubishi steam-generator screw-up at the now permanently shut down San Onofre nuclear plant on ratepayers – detailed in this exclusive EON interview with attorney Mia Severson – is only the tip of the CPUC corruption ice berg. Stay tuned…

On background, here is our 2014 interview with Mike Aguirre:

Check out the preview of EON’s forthcoming documentary SHUTDOWN at ShutdownDoc.TV
===========
If you like EON’s work, you can support it, whatever your budget level, here.