Monthly Archives: December 2022

We’re Sending Out an S.O.S…



Your Year-End Contributions Can Help Us
Cross the Finish Line!

Dear Friends and Allies –

Thanks to the continuing support of funders both small and large the EON feature documentary The San Onofre Syndrome – in production since 2011 – is now in its final stages of completion, heading for release early in 2023.

Our film now has original music composed by Chris Hedge of the Magic Shop and animation by the Bureau’s Keke Robinson and Andres Gomez.

Now comes the final hurdle: raising the funds to pay for rights to archival footage use and for final color correction and mastering.

Our film – S.O.S. for short – tells a dramatic and informative local story with relevance to nuclear power reactor communities across the country about the power of informed citizen action and the challenge of long-term storage of radioactive waste stranded at the nation’s 85 nuclear plant sites (both decommissioned and operating).  It documents both the existing risks and the best available approach to responsible radioactive waste management.

S.O.S. focuses on events at Southern California Edison’s recently shuttered San Onofre nuclear power plant where 3.55 million pounds of spent fuel from the plant’s decades of operation are stored in thin-walled metal canisters on a bluff just yards from the rising sea.

The 54 ton canister in each of these convection air-cooled concrete silos contains roughly the same amount of radiation that was released in the Chernobyl disaster.

San Onofre Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation (ISFSI) showing convection Holtec Umax air-cooled canister silos – Stock Photo

These canisters, like over 1,500 more at other reactor sites around the country, are subject to corrosion, cracking in less than twenty years and the potential release of their radiation.

Eroding Bluffs and Eroding Confidence

Recent developments have underlined the urgency of our film’s message.

San Onofre’s seaside radioactive waste storage facility sits in an area between the coastal rail line and the beach that’s threatened with inundation by bluff collapse, mudslides, flooding, sea rise and tsunami.

Graphic: Southern California Edison

The Orange County Register reports that the local coastal bluffs are alarmingly  subsiding more rapidly each year. This time-lapse animation shows the local eroding coastline:


Google Earth via the Orange County Register

Here’s an EON animation of what might happen if (& when) one of San Onofre’s Holtec Umax convection air-cooled canister systems – containing radioactively and thermally hot fuel rods – is flooded by mudslides, sea rise or tsunami debris and sand, stopping the cooling airflow with debris, leading to overheating and potential explosion.



Please make a tax-deductible contribution of any amount to help us complete our documentary and get the word out.  Visit our

EON Donation Page

Please check out the SOS official website to view the Trailer and related information and news items.

In Solidarity,
The EON S.O.S. Team

Executive Producer/Co-Director – Mary Beth Brangan
Co-Director/Editor – Morgan Peterson
Co-Director – James Heddle




Devilment at Diablo Goes On – So Soon, They Forget…

Meltdown at Diablo ArtOfMark Bryan-com

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana – Reason in Common Sense, The Life of Reason, Vol.1

Every Little Thing Is Gonna Be Alright – Bob Marley

Posted by James Heddle, Mary Beth Brangan – EON

[Authors’ Preface: The Democratic Party’s precarious hold on a Congressional majority –  which ends on January 3rd – has motivated a desperate push for its pro-nuclear agenda aimed at reviving a faltering U.S. commercial nuclear power industry and its co-dependent evil Siamese twin, the U.S. nuclear weapons complex. 

At the recent Cop27 climate conference in Egypt, John Kerry was busy selling Poland three of the same models of Westinghouse reactors now years behind schedule and $13 billion over budget in Georgia.  A similar project in South Carolina has been canceled and Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy in 2017.  US Special Climate Envoy Kerry also sold small modular reactors to Romania and Ukraine.

Along with its quest for increased global nuclear market share abroad that would establish a new set of dependent vassal states cum nuclear-capable allies – the Party is simultaneously pushing for so-called ‘Consolidated Interim Storage’ facilities for the country’s huge backlog of deadly, long-lived radioactive nuclear plant waste, and a re-booting of uranium mining.  Both these agenda items, if implemented, will devastatingly impact indigenous and minority communities already suffering from a history of nuclear colonialism.

Then there is the DOE’s announcement that the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore Lab in California has achieved a ‘breakthrough’ in the perpetually unfulfilled quest for nuclear fusion, a technology without commercial feasibility, but very useful in upgrading the U.S. arsenal of nuclear bombs. Civilian nuclear power is the necessary enabler of thermonuclear weapons production and the maintenance of the U.S nuclear Navy. As a recent Progressive article puts it, Its All About the Bomb.

This is the context of the unfolding Diablo debacle in California.]

Schizophrenic Policy At Diablo Canyon

Schizophrenia is a psychiatric term associated with “loss of touch with reality.” We were reminded of that diagnostic designation as we watched last the December 14 on-line Diablo Canyon Decommissioning Engagement Panel meeting on the extension of the nuclear power plant’s operation.. [The video, slides and transcripts of the meeting will soon be available at DiabloCanyonPanel.org.]

A remote Zoom event with no viewer participation permitted, the meeting was rife with happy talk and repeated reassurances of “as much transparency as possible” in what looks increasingly like an insane plan to put PG&E’s embrittled 47 year-old reactors on extended life-support for another five-to-twenty years. (Kind of like hoping to drive your 1985 Falcon for another 5 to 20 years.)

The meeting featured presentations from California Energy Commissioner Siva Gunda, Tom Jones of PG&E, and Dr. Robert Budnitz of the Diablo Canyon Independent Safety Committee.

Mr. Gunda was tasked with presenting the disaster fear porn computer projections of future climate change and looming power supply ‘reliability challenges’ being used as the rationale for Diablo’s deathbed resuscitation. As any geek knows, the accuracy of computer models matches the validity of the assumptions fed into them. From false assumptions come false projections. Hence the technical formula ‘GIGO’ – Garbage In, Garage Out – which may well be relevant to this enterprise.

California Energy Commission Slide Grab

Mr. Gunda also outlined the timetable of ‘statutory readiness’ – the technical and regulatory hurdles that litter the path to the extended operation of the plant.

CEC Slide Grab

Tom Jones presented PG&E’s bi-polar plan to ride off in two directions at once, simultaneously preparing for shutdown/decommissioning and continued operation into the indefinite future.

 

PG&E Slide Grab

Dr. ‘Feel Good’ Budnitz painted a rosy picture of the Independent Safety Committee’s stellar record of rigorously objective oversight through the years, praising PG&E as the apotheosis of corporate responsibility, and dismissing any concerns regarding maintenance and seismic risks.

The fact that Dr. Budnitz was speaking to a public chamber empty of  members of the public is starkly emblematic of the absence of democracy in the current ‘save Diablo’ process, just as it is in the entire on-going revivalist campaign in support of a new generation of nuclear power and weapons.

It’s hard to imagine Dr. Budnitz jiving to Bob Marley’s Reggae rhythms, but he did seem to singing the same lyrics with the help of the CEC and PG&E supplying the back-up chorus = “Every little thing is gonna be all right.”

Au Contraire – A Diablo Dossier

We’re going to go instead with Professor Santayana’s aphorism quoted above and offer some help with remembering the recent past.

In a decade of reporting on unfolding developments at Diablo Canyon we have produced a series of video reports and articles documenting both the persistence of citizen demands for nuclear public safety, and the consistent pattern of corporate and regulatory perfidy and mismanagement in response.

The current push to extend the aging reactors’ operation ignores a long history of corporate and regulatory incompetence and informed public resistance that seems to have disappeared down the memory hole.

Last nights’ meeting and the recent publication of Greg Schwartz’s excellent Counterpunch article A Risky Gamble at Diablo Canyonwhich we highly recommend – has reminded us to make our documentation of Diablo’s seismic dangers newly available to people currently seeking information to help in defeating the dangerous drive for license extension of the plant.

From the Memory Hole

The seismic risks and other of Diablo Canyon have long been well known.

In a June 10, 2016 presentation at Cal Poly, Arnie Gundersen, Chief Nuclear Engineer at Fairewinds Energy Education, delivered an informed warning that has had 1,704 views.

World in Danger – Arnie Gundersen

As nuclear enthusiasts clamored to extend the operation of California’s last, aging nuclear power plant, Diablo Canyon, located on 13 intersecting earthquake faults in a tsunami zone, prominent whistleblower Arnie Gundersen pointed out ‘the California-Fukushima connection.’ Every operating reactor, where ever it is, poses a danger to the entire planet.  

Diablo is a ‘worst case’ waiting to happen.

________________________________________________________________________________
Senator Barbara Boxer is Sorely Missed

California Democratic Senator Boxer, now retired, was for years chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. During her tenure, Sen. Boxer chaired hearings probing nuclear safety issues.

[Researchers please see also: Sen. Boxer’s 2012 hearing, ‘NRC’s Implementation and Recommendations for Enhancing Nuclear Reactor Safety in the 21st Century’:

Boxer-NRC Hearing hr 1 – Fukushima Lessons Not Learned
Boxer-NRC Hearing Hr 2 – Fukushima Lessons Not Learned ]

The following excerpts from a 2014 hearing she chaired contain information even more relevant now than it was then.

Also included below are other background reports on Diablo Canyon with direct and urgent current relevance.

We invite you to have a look.



ASSESSING DIABLO’S RISKS – Hirsch & Blakeslee

In a Dec. 3, 2014 testimony before Senator Barbara Boxer’s Committee on Environment & Public Works, Daniel Hirsch, Nuclear Policy Analyst, UC Santa Cruz and Dr. Sam Blakeslee, Geophysicist, former Republican CA State Senator reveal PG&E’s history of incompetence, fact-fudging and safety violations, the NRC’s history of lax regulation and new seismic risk discoveries. They call for a full adjudicatory re-licensing hearing for the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant in San Luis Obispo, California.





Nuclear Negligence at Diablo – Dan Hirsch

Déjà vu All Over Again Daniel Hirsch lays out the long, sad history of PG&E and NRC nuclear negligence and incompetence at Diablo Canyon in this excerpted testimony before Senator Barbara Boxer’s Committee on Environment and Public Works, Dec. 3, 2014. Hirsch heads CommitteeToBridgeTheGap.org and is a lecturer at the University of California in Santa Cruz.

His testimony shows that from Humboldt Bay to Bodega Head to Diablo Canyon PG&E has consistently chosen nuclear sites on earthquake faults and the NRC has consistently failed to enforce its own seismic safety standards.

Now, although one of its own Senior Inspectors has reported that Diablo Canyon, located in a tsunami zone near San Luis Obispo, is out of safety compliance and called for the plant’s shutdown, the NRC has failed to take action.

Despite the recent discovery that Diablo Canyon sits on the intersections of 13 active earthquake faults capable of releasing far more seismic force than the reactors were designed to withstand, PG&E is applying for an extension of it’s operating license without making any upgrades and without a re-licensing hearing.

As other segments of this historic hearing make painfully clear, the NRC’s non-enforcement of it’s own rules and staff recommendations post-Fukushima has become standard operating procedure for a so-called ‘regulatory agency’ more committed to industry profits and the promotion of nuclear energy than the protection of public safety. Sadly, this was Senator Boxer’s last hearing as Chair of this important Committee. The gavel passed to leading Republican Sen. James Inhofe.


Republican Calls for Diablo Safety Probe

Dr. Sam Blakeslee, a PhD. geophysicist, former California Republican state senator, and former commissioner, California Seismic Safety Commission is advocating an immediate seismic safety investigation of PG&E’s Diablo Canyon nuclear plant near San Luis Obispo, CA.

In Dec. 3, 2014 testimony before Senator Barbara Boxer’s Committee on Environment and Public Works, Blakeslee – who is emphatically NOT ‘anti-nuclear’ – denounced the fact that as new discoveries of potential earthquake dangers have increased, PG&E’s standards for seismic safety have gone down.





PG&E’s Diablo Canyon Seismic Risks

San Francisco, CA. Feb. 25, 2013 – Citizens question California Public Utilities Commission’s Independent Peer Review Panel (IPRP) on seismic risks to PG&E’s Diablo Canyon nuclear plant.


How Diablo Canyon Got Its Name – Fred Collins

This is an excerpt from the Jan. 2015 National Conference on Shutting Down Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant. Fred Collins, Tribal Spokesperson for the Northern Chumash Tribal Council, talks about the history and culture of his people, the impact of the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant on the regional environment, the Council’s plans for a National Marine Sanctuary Area in the region and how Diablo Canyon got its name.


4 Decades Working to Shut Diablo – Linda Seeley

On Saturday, May 9, 2015, the Democratic Club of Malibu, CA held a conference titled “Are We Ready for a Diablo Canyon Meltdown?” In this segment, Linda Seeley of Mothers For Peace reports on the organization’s 40-something years of persistent fighting to shut down Diablo Canyon. If the I Ching is right, and ‘Persistence Furthers,’ Diablo is doomed. Organized by Club President Ann Doneen and Myla Reson, the well-attended event was MCed by author Harvey Wasserman.


Public Opposition to Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant – Historic Clip

This is a clip from the historic 1986 documentary film A QUESTION OF POWER directed by David L. Brown, which tells the story of public opposition to the building of PG&E’s nuclear reactors at Diablo Canyon, near San Luis Obispo, CA. The full DVD is available from http://www.dlbfilms.com/




Mary Beth Brangan and James Heddle Co-Direct EON, the Ecological Options Network.. The EON feature documentary S.O.S. – The San Onofre Syndrome will be released early next year.

A Risky Gamble at Diablo Canyon

BY GREG M. SCHWARTZ - Counter Punch

Environmental groups concerned about cost and safety issues at the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant in San Luis Obispo County on California’s central coast thought they’d scored a big win in 2018 when a Joint Proposal was approved by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC)  to retire the aging plant by 2025. But like a zombie, Diablo Canyon’s operating life was resurrected until at least 2030 this past summer when California Governor Gavin Newsom rammed a last-minute bill through the California legislature to keep the plant going.
Michael Peck – Diablo Canyon’s senior resident safety inspector from 2007-2012 – tells me the plant should’ve been shut down years ago due to a faulty licensing process that disregarded crucial seismic data indicating the plant is vulnerable to a Fukushima type of nightmare.

Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant suffered a catastrophic triple meltdown and radiation release in 2011 when a magnitude 9.0 earthquake triggered a tsunami that topped protective sea walls and overwhelmed the reactors. 150,000 people were evacuated as radioactivity spewed into the air and ocean. The catastrophe – deemed a man-made disaster due to regulatory collusion – was the direct cause of nearly 4,000 deaths and remains an ongoing calamity; disposal of vast quantities of radioactive wastewater stored onsite remains an intractable problem.

More than 170 organizations objected to using federal subsidies to delay the closure of Diablo Canyon, which opened in 1984-85. But that didn’t stop the Department of Energy from recently awarding California a $1.1 billion subsidy to resuscitate Diablo Canyon. The writing was on the wall in the spring when Newsom voiced “worst case scenario” concerns about rolling blackouts that put Diablo Canyon back “on the table as an option”. Senator Dianne Feinstein followed with a predictably like-minded editorial in the Sacramento Bee, claiming California wasn’t yet ready to achieve its renewable energy goals as planned.

Mainstream media coverage of Diablo Canyon’s operating extension in 2022 has largely glossed over questions about the plant’s ability to withstand strong earthquakes. But with Newsom and allies in the nuclear industry reaching to extend the aging nuclear plant’s life, the seismic safety issues warrant renewed scrutiny.

Concern about seismic threats to the plant arose even before construction was completed in 1973. Originally designed to withstand a quake of magnitude 6.75, Diablo was discovered in 1971 to be just a few miles from the underwater Hosgri Fault. It was upgraded to allegedly withstand a 7.5 quake (the 1906 San Francisco earthquake registered at 7.8). Then came the 2008 discovery of the Shoreline Fault, just 2,000 feet from the reactors, which further complicated the seismic debate.

Michael Peck’s objections regarding how the NRC and PG&E fudged the license amendment process in 2012 to get around the newly identified seismic issues were the subject of a story by this reporter in 2015.  Now retired, Peck remains dismayed at the “circular logic” which he says the NRC used to overrule his report that dissented on how the newly identified fault lines were addressed.

“My issue was with PG&E’s failure to… preserve engineering margins. Federal Regulation required PG&E to apply for and the NRC to approve an Amendment to their Operating License based upon the new seismic analysis, but… NRC’s Diablo Canyon project manager directed PG&E to change their license without the Amendment,” Peck explains.

Peck claims the licensing amendment violation wasn’t just reckless, but that it was criminal. He points to a 2012 letter from NRC’s Diablo Canyon project manager Joseph Sebrosky to PG&E Senior VP & Chief Nuclear Officer Edward Halpin as “a smoking gun.” Peck says it reveals how NRC’s Sebrosky directed PG&E to use a methodology that had been rejected in 2011, in order to get around the new seismic data with regulatory language Peck compares to “a shell game”.

“These are all rhetoric games that PG&E used and that the NRC bought into in order to justify continued operation outside the design basis,” Peck says. “PG&E and NRC failed to use legally binding requirements to amend the Operating License with these new methodologies…I suspect this path was chosen because outside experts and NRC technical reviewers would not agree with PG&E and NRC management’s conclusions. Which, in accordance with the existing Operating License, would require the plant to shut down.”

In 2013, Dave Lochbaum, then-Director of Nuclear Safety at the Union of Concerned Scientists took Peck’s dissent into account in his professional analysis: “The NRC is betting that the big one won’t make Diablo Canyon the next nuclear nightmare. When the stakes involve tens of thousands of Californians, the NRC should stop wagering and resume regulating.” Lochbaum calculated a 1 in 6 chance – “a toss of a die” – that a quake stronger than the reactors are designed for would occur in Diablo’s lifetime.

Nuclear policy expert Daniel Hirsch also highlighted Peck’s concerns in his testimony before an oversight hearing of the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Environment and Public Works, chaired by Senator Barbara Boxer at the end of 2014:  “The problem is that nature may not go along with the regulatory fictions… As at Fukushima, an earthquake larger than the plant can withstand could occur at any moment. And as at Fukushima, it will not be an act of nature, but a man-made disaster, caused by the failure of our institutions.”

Peck outlined his concerns in a detailed letter to Boxer in 2015, who then pressured the NRC on multiple issues at Diablo Canyon. The NRC’s Inspector General opened an investigation, for which Peck was interviewed multiple times. I recently used FOIA to liberate the NRC OIG’s report on that investigation. The report concluded that there was no regulatory collusion between NRC and PG&E, but Peck says it’s filled with holes and red herrings.

One of the report’s most egregious fallacies is the claim from NRC’s then-Executive Director for OperationsMark Satorius that Peck told him “he was not raising a safety issue, ”but rather only a “regulatory compliance matter.” Peck says he only agreed that his dissent wasn’t over an “immediate safety issue”, not that he had no safety concerns at all. Another big hole in the NRC’s decision to close the investigation was the reasoning that “NRC individuals involved are no longer employed by the federal government,” as if that was a logical rationale for failure to consider a potentially catastrophic safety risk at a nuclear power plant in a state with a population of almost 40 million!

“In my 28 years as a senior nuclear inspector, I’ve never seen such a disregard for nuclear safety requirements as I saw at Diablo Canyon,” Peck laments.

Then there’s nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates, who says the danger at Diablo Canyon is even worse than Peck thinks. He testified to CPUC in 2017, arguing the plant should be closed ASAP because it likely wouldn’t even survive the 7.5 quake that the NRC says it could, much less the stronger one that worries Peck.

Friends of the Earth (FOE) found the seismic concerns alarming enough to file a legal action against the NRC over the lack of public hearings required with the amending of Diablo Canyon’s license. But the organization dropped its litigation in 2018 as part of the deal that was reached to close Diablo Canyon. FOE is now weighing its legal options again.

“I am deeply worried about whether we are looking at this extension underneath the context that this reactor could be operating for another 20 years,” FOE President Erich Pica explained in a recent interview. “We just saw the governor of California tear through a fairly solid agreement, he just politically muscled his way around it.  So, there are no guarantees – now that he’s been able to pick Pandora’s Box – that the next governor or next operator of PG&E wouldn’t want to continue operating that reactor. The deep fear I have is that we could get stuck in these five-year incremental renewals that don’t look at the entire lifecycle of the reactor.”

In extending Diablo Canyon’s lifetime to give himself political cover from “worst case scenario” blackouts, Gov. Newsom is putting his faith in PG&E and NRC to acknowledge seismic issues that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars or more to remedy. Is this the same Gavin Newsom who ripped PG&E in 2019 for the utility’s greed and mismanagement following two years of wildfires and rolling blackouts? Is he now willing to gamble that this same utility will value safety over profits at Diablo Canyon? PG&E’s sordid history suggests that’s a dangerous bet.

Diablo Canyon errors will soon cost most Californians

From: Tom Elias -California Focus,  CV Star

The benefits to Pacific Gas & Electric Co. from keeping the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant near San Luis Obispo open longer than previously scheduled are now very clear: electricity customers all over California soon will almost certainly be paying the big utility for not producing power.

That’s the apparent bottom line, after Diablo Canyon shut down for substantial periods twice in the last six months because PG&E violated its own management procedures.
The outages at the huge generating station, which when working can produce 8.5% of all power created in California, came when a hydrogen cooling system within the plant’s Unit 2 leaked and had to be shut down manually.

Resulting energy losses from Diablo Canyon demonstrated the plant’s unreliability, which was also on view in 2020-21, when the facility experienced 149 days of unplanned outages over a 476-day period. Essentially, Diablo produced little or nothing over one third of that time.

PG&E customers are likely to be dunned $178.6 million for the costs of replacement power during the shutdowns of the last 30 months. But the state law that will let Diablo keep operating through 2030, more than five years beyond its previously planned closure date, will have all customers of privately-owned utilities everywhere in California foot the bills for future Diablo problems, up to $300 million.

The extension was Gov. Gavin Newsom’s way of providing backup electricity during heat waves when blackouts have been threatened repeatedly in recent years. But Newsom’s backup turns out to be a plant that has recently been dead weight about one-third of the time.

The entire plan, passed with little public review by the Legislature in the dying days of its 2022 session, can be seen as Newsom again rewarding PG&E for the $10 million-plus it has contributed to his many campaigns.

Or, it can be seen as plain stupidity. For sure, the new subsidies for Diablo’s error-caused outages are a recognition that it’s risky to count on the 40-year-old facility as an ultimate power backup.

Said Rochelle Becker, executive director of the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility, a longtime Diablo Canyon watchdog, “The extraordinary size of these (outage) costs is a very bad omen for Diablo’s post-2024 future.”

Becker points out that most of the recent Diablo outages have been caused by operator errors, including “the botched installation of the newest equipment at the plant, the Unit 2 main generator stator. (That’s the part that went haywire in the latest shutdowns.) History shows that with PG&E, if something can go wrong, it will.”

That’s strong language, but it is backed up by PG&E’s record of the last 12 years, including a natural gas explosion that killed eight in San Bruno and company-caused fires that killed about 100 persons and destroyed towns like Paradise and Greenville, leading to multiple manslaughter convictions for the company.

It’s not an enviable record, and for California to depend on extended use of one of the company’s older facilities might turn out to be a huge and expensive mistake.

It’s all part of the coddling of utilities by a long series of California governors, Democrat and Republican, all of whom received large donations from utility companies, then appointed regulators who consistently favor the companies over their customers.

That’s why Southern California Edison consumers, soon to begin subsidizing PG&E mistakes, are still paying on their unjustly assigned $3.3 billion share of the $4.7 billion cost of  closing the failed San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, which became a white elephant after to an Edison blunder.

It’s why PG&E’s corporate survival was allowed under a plan seeing customers pay multiple billions into a fund designed to pay for damages from future wildfires caused by that company.

The question now is whether extending Diablo’s life will turn out to be yet another regulatory and consumer blunder.

In the very likely event that it does, PG&E will get even more hundreds of millions of dollars than it already has from California electric bills. And none of this even begins to count the $1 billion in federal tax dollars the Biden administration granted the company late last month.