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Thursday, March 17, 2011
California Nuke Plant 1 Mile from Fault Has No Emergency Plan
[As the world's attention remains focused on the nuclear calamity unfolding in Japan, American nuclear regulators and industry lobbyists have been offering assurances that plants in the United States are designed to withstand major earthquakes.
But the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, which sits less than a mile from an offshore fault line, was not required to include earthquakes in its emergency response plan as a condition of being granted its license more than a quarter of a century ago. Though experts warned from the beginning that the plant would be vulnerable to an earthquake, asserting 25 years ago that it required an emergency plan as a condition of its license, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission fought against making such a provision mandatory as it allowed the facility to be built...
Experts who recall how the California plant came to be erected offer a disconcerting answer: Yes. And some are calling for more urgent government action to review safety at nuclear plants across the country.
"What they're displaying now is exactly what was wrong in the past with the nuclear establishment, which is that they didn't have their priorities right," said Victor Gilinsky, who served on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission during the Diablo Canyon debate and agreed with the call for greater attention to earthquakes in emergency plans. "They're more concerned about the protection of the plants, and installation of further plants, than they are about public safety. The president should be saying, 'I want every single plant reviewed.'"
Back when the California plant was being finalized in the mid-1980s, local activists and environmental lawyers sued the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in an effort to slow the project, arguing that the clear risks from earthquakes nearby required additional planning.]