— Humboldt Bay problems continue; PG&E retaliates against decommissioning expert

The story of Humboldt Bay Nuclear Plant is an expose of PG&E and an expose of nuclear regulation. It’s happening now. Its dangers and warnings are critical for the public to heed.

OSHA & The Cover-up At The PG&E Humboldt Bay Nuclear Power Station

Darrell Whitman who was a Federal OSHA investigator and lawyer discusses his investigation at the PG&E nuclear power plant at Humboldt Bay in Northern California. Whitman reports on how OSHA officials refused to defend the whistleblowers and instead allowed them to be retaliated against. Whitman who also became a whistleblower was terminated by top OSHA officials on May 5, 2015 He and his union AFGE Local 2371 are fighting against this retaliation. He was also a shop steward for his AFGE local and many other AFGE workers are being bullied and terrorized by OSHA management for doing their jobs. This interview was done in February 2015.

Unofficial transcript:

My name is Darrell Whitman and I’m at the moment at least an investigator with the US Department of Labor OSHA’s whistleblower protection program here in San Francisco.

As an investigator we are again we handle 22 statutes that are supposed to provide whistleblower protection to everyone from the maid in the hotel to high-level corporate officials who are reporting fraud in corporate fraud and a lot of very technical complaints people as I had and we’ve talked about this before.

I had a high-level official very, very experienced, very highly regarded in the industry who was the safety manager at a major nuclear plant, and he blew the whistle and it was a pretty ugly story.after that,

This was the Humboldt Bay a power plant and this fellow, basically he had come from the Midwest and his expertise was he was in nuclear security, but he also helped Senator Lieberman draft the protocols for decommissioning plants. And so he was he was more than just an expert. He was a very high-value person. And he wanted to apply this new knowledge. So when the opportunity was given to him to come out to Humboldt Bay to the nuclear plant, it was going to be the first nuclear plant actually decommissioned where they were gonna apply the protocols that he had worked on with the Senate, yeah he was very excited about it.

He didn’t know a lot about California. He didn’t know a lot about PG&E. The irony was he came to California thinking, now he’s from Nebraska, he’s a surfer, he had gotten into being a surfer from his early on, and had gone to the Gulf Coast and of course, he heard the best surfing in the country was in California. So in his mind, he was going to be going to a plant that was right on the ocean. So it’s gonna be perfect opportunity to do surfing.

Well, when he got there, he discovered a lot of things. Among other things, he discovered very early on was, the security staff was completely unprepared to do the job. When he actually started vetting them as far as testing their skill levels and their preparation, half of them he had to fire. He had, and nothing against older people, he had a seventy eight year old security guard who could not do a push-up. This is not a good thing. His security guards have to be physically capable of putting, you know. of doing the job. Then shortly after that, he began to discover other things about the culture of the region. You know, we’re talking Humboldt, and he didn’t realize coming from Nebraska what it means to be living in the Green Triangle. So he discovered that there was an awful lot of drug dealing and drug use going on including people in the plant operating centers.

And that of course was – what’s his issue? He’s a security director

So what he also didn’t understand was when PG&E got the agreement with the local area to build the plant in the first place, they had sort of cut a backroom deal which was to employ locals. You know, this is a tricky this is a thing you see commonly with a lot of plants and particularly ones that are potentially dangerous that

They bribe people.

That’s and as a form of bribery will get, will create 500 jobs in your neighborhood. And for a small area in a fairly remote area — Eureka I think has maybe thirty five thousand people — this was a big deal. So people were willing, at least the officials were willing, to overlook the questions because they were going to get jobs.

On the other hand, PG&E was not discriminating in regard to who was getting the jobs. So you were drawing a large portion of the plant operators and not so much the technical operators but the people who were the security people, people who were performing lower-level kinds of jobs coming from the local community, and this is the green traffic, so it was problematic arrangement, let’s put it that way. But among other things he discovered very early on, was that the plant and misplaced fuel rods. They couldn’t account for all the fuel rods. You know, it was just kind of a litany of things like this

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— Nuclear accident at PG&E’s Humboldt Bay Nuclear Plant? Whistleblower presents the evidence and shocking history

The story of Humboldt Bay Nuclear Plant is an expose of PG&E and an expose of nuclear regulation. It’s happening now. Its dangers and warnings are critical for the public to heed.


Was there an accident at Humboldt Bay Nuclear Power Plant?

In 1970, a power outage caused the Humboldt Bay Nuclear Power Plant to malfunction. Using historic sources, we investigate whether this resulted in a leak of radioactive gases.

Unofficial transcript based on auto-transcript:

My name is Scott Rainsford .I was born in Iowa. I was a marine science technician in the United States Coast Guard initially four years active duty, followed by another 14 roughly years of Coast Guard Reserve when I came up here. As a marine science technician, my commanding officer in the Coast Guard Reserve sent me to the PG&E nuclear power plant in the year 1978 to see if I could update their contingency plan.

I went to the plant, I read their contingency plan, and after i had thoroughly read it i asked if they ever had a chance to use it. They replied, Well. as a matter of fact, yes we have.”

They brought out this report marked “confidential.”

When a nuclear plant is operating, there is a person in charge called a nuclear operator and he keeps a log of every important fact or issue that happens during his watch. There’s a time annotation and then what happened.

The report described an accident that happened on July 17, 1970. It just so happened that a man named Shiffer was there, and he was one of PG&E’s best and brightest. He was a senior nuclear operator. So seeing this crisis developed, he took command of the reactor. So the log that i was reading was his operational log.

This report described the following:

A maintenance crew from PG&E went to a local substation at an area called Mitchell Height, and they were going to do some maintenance on a high tension line. They believed that this high tension line was dead. Because of that, the maintenance crew opened an air circuit breaker. The result was a fireball which melted and damaged the whole circuit. That 60 000 volts was supplying outside power to PG&E’s unit number three.

The nuclear power plant when they lose outside power, down goes the feed water pumps that feed coolant water into the reactor. So we have an issue of overheating the core.

The next in line during this initial start of the emergency was a propane generator. Problem with this propane generator was that it did not provide enough power to supply the feed water pumps which would keep the reactor cool, and it also did not supply all the power necessary to run the instrumentation that the nuclear control operator needed to understand what was happening to the reactor so he had no idea how much coolant remained. So now, the nuclear operator is operating blind.

There were three units. The first two units were petroleum-based. The third unit was the only nuclear plant. When the nuclear plant is running, one of the other two units must be in operation and that is so that if the nuclear unit lost outside power, the other operating unit could supply emergency outside power to the nuclear unit. It failed because several months before, another maintenance crew had disconnected a cable in the switch yard and therefore, could not complete the circuit. The second major part of the fail-safe system failed. That piece of equipment was called an emergency condenser. What that is a compartment partially filled with water that functions similar to a car radiator. A valve that automatically is supposed to open from the reactor taking this out of specification pressure in the form of steam. It runs through a series of baffles in this emergency condenser which is partially filled with water. The steam is cooled, condensed back into water, and put back into the reactor core to keep it cool. The emergency condenser failed, because a valve would not open.

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— Former Humboldt Bay nuclear plant technician talks about PG&E’s safety problems and retaliation against employees

The story of Humboldt Bay Nuclear Plant is an expose of PG&E and an expose of nuclear regulation. It’s happening now. Its dangers and warnings are critical for the public to heed.

Shut It Down Now! Former Humboldt PG&E IBEW 1245 Nuclear Plant Technician Bob Rowen On Nuclear Power

Bob Rowen was a Humboldt PG&E IBEW 1245 nuclear control technician at the power plant. He talks about being a control technician at the plant and what happened when he began to stand up for health and safety as a whistleblower. His fight to protect the workers and the community cost him his job when he raised health and safety concerns and he along with another nuclear control technician Forrest Williams were retaliated against and illegally terminated. He also recounts an effort to set up a criminal conspiracy frame-up by PG&E to charge him with planning to blow up the plant and a false document was sent to the FBI to blacklist him throughout the country to prevent him from working in any other nuclear plant in the US. He also reports on the role of his union IBEW 1245 and the media when a reporter from NBC Donald Widener tried to cover the story and was retaliated against by PG&E in actions that destroyed his career. He also discusses the case of PG&E Diablo Canyon nuclear plant whistleblower Neil Aiken. Aiken went to PG&E’s Board of Directors with his concerns over safety and was also targeted and fired. This interview was done on January 26, 2015. Rowen has written a book about his struggle called My Humboldt Diary: A True Story of Betrayal of the Public Trust, Nuclear Power at Humboldt Bay. For more information http://www.myhumboldtdiary.com

Production of Labor Video Project http://www.laborvideo.org

Unofficial transcript:

My name is Bob Rowen. I became a nuclear control technician at the Humboldt Bay nuclear power plant in Eureka. The plant went online in 1963, in August of 63, and I showed up in March of 1964.

My first job at the plant was apprentice instrument repairman, but within six months I entered the nuclear control technician training program. journeymanprogram in the PG&E system, I became a nuclear control technician.

I thought that I had found a career of a lifetime. When I got out of the Marines and went to work there and thought I was on the ground floor of a program that in an industry that was going to be second to none, but as I got into it, I found that it was not what it was all cracked up to be.

How long was the training program?

42 months. It was a very rigorous training program that requires a lot of hours on the weekends and at night learning all the things that we had to learn as well as classroom work during the day.

And so what happened when you started working there?

Well I I became involved in and developed a special interest in radiation protection.

The nuclear control technician program in those days consisted of actually three elements: nuclear instrumentation, radiation protection, and radio chemistry. What I was particularly concerned about the radiation protection aspect of the job, and so when I started studying all of the training materials that PG&E had provided, I found that they were not in agreement with what I had learned in the military.

I was a Marine Pathfinder and I trained in ABC warfare – atomic, biological, and chemical warfare. And the atomic part of that talked about the kinds of hazards associated with radiation that did not agree one bit with what PG&E was providing us. So I started asking some embarrassing questions. At first they weren’t necessarily challenging plant management but their responses led me to a confrontation with the management because I felt that I was being lied to

[unintelligible]

At one point, yes, because I believed in corporate America and I believed in the government. I thought the AEC would do everything that they were charged with in terms of their responsibilities of protecting employees and the general public. But it turns out that that wasn’t the case at all.

So you began asking questions And what happened?

Well, eventually I was told that if I was looking for trouble, I was going to find it. The plant engineer made that very clear to me and I told him, my response was, I’m not going to be bullied. I still had a lot of Marine in me in my mid-20s, and I just said, I’m not going to kowtow to you. I won’t do that.

Eventually I found myself faced with having to, well, for example I was ordered to sign false shipping documents. The spent-fuel shipping cask — and it’s a long story; it’s in my book; it spells out exactly what took place — but the shipping cask ended up with several? contaminations exceeding DOT regs, and the release papers that had my name pre-typed on as a nuclear control technician, and I said I’m not signing those papers because they’re false. And I was ordered to do it. So I signed them under protest. And then I put it in the radiation control log exactly what had taken place, and I had another serious set-to with the plant engineer. And that’s just one example of many things that happen.

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— EWG: PG&E reports nuclear reactor welding leak at Diablo Canyon facility

From Environmental Working Group

January 5, 2023

PG&E reports nuclear reactor welding leak at Diablo Canyon facility

EWG: Critical questions about coolant system damage go unanswered

SAN FRANCISCO – Pacific Gas & Electric found damage to part of a reactor cooling system at the aging Diablo Canyon nuclear plant in California, but it hasn’t yet answered key questions about the extent of the problem.

PG&E is the owner of the state’s last remaining nuclear power plant, and found the fault with the reactor coolant system during a routine inspection in October. PG&E detailed the damage in a report[1] to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, or NRC, in December.

The power company says the system had a crack in the welding of the wall of Diablo Canyon’s Unit 2 reactor, which was shut down for refueling. PG&E says the presumed cause was fatigue, which was caused by vibrations at the facility indicating a weld defect. The utility says the damage meant the unit fell short of NRC operating requirements.

PG&E says it repaired the leak, and the public and plant workers were never at risk. But the utility’s filing with the commission raises several questions, including:

  • When was the affected weld last inspected?
  • When does PG&E believe the crack in the weld formed?
  • Why had the weld flaw not been identified?
  • What was the size of the leak when it occurred?  

“The communities near Diablo Canyon deserve to know the full details of the incident, how it happened, why it wasn’t discovered earlier and how long it took for PG&E to identify the damage to the reactor coolant system,” said Environmental Working Group President and California resident Ken Cook

“The main reason for shuttering this aging facility is the potential threat it poses to the public – and PG&E’s overall safety record across its vast service area in the state is among the worst of any power company in the country,” Cook said.

Diablo Canyon’s latest problem highlights ongoing concerns about the stability of the facility and shows why EWG and others are pushing to shut the plant down. 

Yet state and federal officials are trying to keep the aging facility operating beyond 2025, when it’s slated to shutter under the terms of a settlement carefully negotiated between PG&E, California and environmentalists.

Last September, at the urging of California Gov. Gavin Newsom, the state legislature approved Senate Bill 846, a law that will keep the plant operating for five more years, until 2030. It will also give PG&E a $1.4 billion loan to cover costs during that extra time.

In November, the Biden administration announced it will give PG&E more than $1 billion in federal funding to keep the plant operating past its scheduled 2025 closure date.

PG&E has also petitioned the NRC to fast-track its October 31 request to extend the license of the twin Diablo Canyon reactors. Four environmental organizations, led by San Luis Obispo-based Mothers for Peace, or SLOMFP, have sent letters to the NRC warning it would violate federal law if it accepts the proposal. The other groups that signed the letters are EWG, Friends of the Earth and Committee to Bridge the Gap.

“PG&E cannot have it both ways,” claimed SLOMFP Board President Jane Swanson. “PG&E stopped preparing the reactors for continued operation in 2016 and voided their license renewal. The company has spent the past six years preparing to mothball the reactors and has saved money by not investing in future operations. It is too late to get a license renewal before the plant must shut down.”

###

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy, and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.

https://www.ewg.org/news-insights/news-release/2023/01/pge-reports-nuclear-reactor-welding-leak-diablo-canyon-facility

[1] nrc[dot]gov/docs/ML2235/ML22355A081.pdf

— PG&E asks to fast-track NRC safety requirements — Organizations respond with a second letter to NRC

From Mothers for Peace SLO

On December 6, 2022, in their second letter to the Commissioners of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) within the space of three weeks, four environmental organizations once again put the NRC on notice that the agency would violate federal law if it accepted Pacific Gas & Electric’s (PG&E’s) October 31 proposal to resurrect and fast-track its review of PG&E’s long-abandoned 2009 license renewal application for the twin Diablo Canyon reactors. San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace (SLOFMP), Friends of the Earth (FOE), Environmental Working Group (EWG), and Committee to Bridge the Gap (CBG) warned that PG&E’s proposal runs afoul of the NRC’s safety requirements and procedures and would violate the federal National Environmental Policy Act.

The NRC terminated the Diablo Canyon license renewal proceeding in 2018 when PG&E decided to close the reactors in 2024 and 2025. “PG&E cannot have it both ways,” claimed SLOMFP Board President Jane Swanson. “PG&E stopped preparing the reactors for continued operation in 2016 and asked the NRC to terminate the license renewal proceeding. The company has spent the past six years preparing to mothball the reactors and has saved money by not investing in future operations. They can’t reverse course and revive a license renewal application that was declared dead years ago at their own request.”

Last September, the California Legislature passed SB 846 to provide PG&E with economic incentives to request a five-year extension of Diablo Canyon’s license from the NRC. “With years of extended operations on the table for this outdated and potentially deadly nuclear facility, it is crucial that we cut zero corners,” said FOE Legal Director Hallie Templeton. “The California legislature has not provided PG&E carte blanche to seek exemptions and streamline relicensing. If it intends to continue operating Diablo, PG&E should be required to file an entirely new and up-to-date license renewal application, which the NRC must thoroughly analyze by the full letter of the law before reaching a decision.” 

The organizations also noted that PG&E had no legal basis for its request to exempt it from important federal regulations requiring an environmental analysis before the NRC can allow the reactors to operate beyond their current license terms.

“The last time the NRC did an environmental review for operation of the Diablo Canyon reactors was 1993,” said Ken Cook, EWG’s President and Co-founder. “Given the potentially extreme impacts and risks of continuing to operate Diablo Canyon, it would be both illegal and sheer folly to proceed with extended operation in the absence of a thorough and up-to-date Environmental Impact Statement.”

Dan Hirsch, spokesperson for CBG, commented, “PG&E’s request to be exempted from regulatory requirements for Diablo Canyon is very dangerous. If the requested exemption were granted, Diablo could keep running, potentially for many years, while the critical issues of whether it is safe to do so are not yet resolved. This creates the potential for an accident and massive radiation release to occur after license expiration and before a renewal decision could be made on those vital safety issues. It is the proverbial nuclear version of shooting first and asking questions later.”

These groups, which submitted their first letter to the NRC on November 17, pledged to continue their efforts to ensure that any license renewal application filed with the NRC by PG&E is reviewed with all the rigor required by federal safety and environmental laws.

Organizations 12.6.2022 letter to the NRC

Organizations 11.17.2022 letter to the NRC

https://mothersforpeace.org/organizations-send-a-second-letter-to-the-nrc/

— December 14, 2022, Diablo Canyon Decommissioning Engagement Panel meeting

The Diablo Canyon Decommissioning Engagement Panel (DCDEP) hosted an informational online webinar on Wednesday, December 14, 2022 to update the community on the status and proposed schedule for the continued operation of the Diablo Canyon Power Plant (DCPP) and implications on decommissioning activities, such as, repurposing, land use, and environmental permitting.  The online meeting included presentations by PG&E, the California Energy Commission and the Diablo Canyon Independent Safety Committee.  Members of the community submitted questions and concerns prior to the meeting.  In preparation for the meeting, PG&E prepared a brief summary of SB 846 and the status of activities relating to the extended operation of DCPP.diablocanyonpanel(dot)org/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/SB-846-PGE-Summary-11_23_22.pdf

View meeting agenda, meeting recording and presentation materials —
diablocanyonpanel(dot)org/2022-panel-meetings/#12-14-22-panel-mtg

– – – –

From Mothers for Peace SLO prior to the meeting —

Topics include: review of SB 846 funding and accelerated permitting provisions to allow for extended operations; actions already taken by PG&E; the role of the Diablo Canyon Independent Safety Committee; the role of the Diablo Canyon Independent Peer Review Panel to address seismic issues; and implications of extended operations on the current decommissioning CEQA process.

No public comment will be allowed, but you may submit written comments at any time [to the Panel].
diablocanyonpanel[dot]org/submit-comment/

Talking Points:

  • There is supposedly a list being developed of deferred maintenance projects and the associated estimated costs. Who is participating in the compilation of this list? When will it be available to the public? Who will oversee these projects?
  • There is much controversy over the seismic safety of Diablo Canyon. What agency(ies) is/are responsible for the independent analysis of seismic dangers? How and when will the public be informed of the findings?
  • Explain the plans for how the high level radioactive waste will be stored as a result of the proposed extended operation. How will the fuel pools and the Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation be managed? 
  • SB 846 allows 5 years of extended operation. But the 2018 agreement to shutter the reactors in 2024 and 2025, signed and approved by the CPUC and the NRC, was ignored and reversed. What assurance does the public have that the plant would operate for 5 additional years and no more?

PG&E’s Summary of SB 846 and the status of activities relating to extended operation
diablocanyonpanel(dot)org/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/SB-846-PGE-Summary-11_23_22.pdf

https://mothersforpeace.org/december-14-2022-meeting-of-the-diablo-canyon-decommissioning-engagement-panel/

— Gavin Newsom’s protection of PG&E and Diablo Canyon

From Mothers for Peace

Governor Newsom has been carrying PG&E’s water for too long. When will it end?
July 8, 2022

Governor Newsom’s cozy relationship with PG&E has been ongoing since his run for San Francisco Supervisor in 1998. By now, contributions from PG&E add up to well over $10 million in support of his campaigns and ballot measures.  The company has also contributed hundreds of thousands to Newsom’s wife’s foundation. In return, Newsom has helped PG&E get away with murder, literally. And now, Newsom is proving his loyalty to the company by providing a runway for PG&E to keep Diablo Canyon nuclear plant open past its agreed-upon closure date of 2025. 

On June 30, the Department of Energy (DOE) bowed to Newsom’s plea to change the rules so Diablo could qualify for a portion of the $6 million of Civil Nuclear Tax Credits. The DOE also extended the application deadline until September 6, 2022, allowing PG&E ample time to apply. Newsom is no stranger to manipulating circumstances to help PG&E. After the Camp Fire, which killed 85 people in 2018, Newsom had his lawyers craft a bill, AB 1054. This 2019 bill essentially protected PG&E by creating a $21 billion fund to help utilities cover the cost of major wildfires started by their equipment and forcing customers to pay for half of the cost of the fund. The bill also enabled PG&E to obtain official state safety certificates for two fire seasons since the Camp Fire. Yet, three years later, a state report on the 2021 Dixie Fire indicated that the utility was negligent in its tree-removal program, which helped spark the fire, and that their response the day of the fire was “excessively delayed.”

Newsom benefited from $208,400 in political contributions from PG&E to help him win his 2018 run for governor. 

In response to the Supreme Court’s ruling weakening the EPA, Governor Newsom claimed that “California is taking bold action to further advance California’s progress toward an oil-free future and bolster the state’s clean energy economy.” Yet, at the same time, he convinced members of the State Legislature to pass a very climate-unfriendly Trailer Budget Bill. This legislation provides a $75 million allocation for the Department of Water Resources to purchase electricity from Diablo Canyon and hundreds of millions more for fossil fuel power plants.

Keeping Diablo open past 2025 breaks a hard-fought agreement between environmental organizations, labor, and PG&E. It puts the availability of renewable energy at risk, undercutting the state’s ability to reduce carbon dioxide and other climate-warming emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2045. California does not need Diablo to ensure sufficient energy to prevent power outages or meet climate goals. To be clear, Diablo Canyon is closing because PG&E determined in 2016 that doing so would enable it to meet California’s renewable energy standard (RES) and emissions standards more rapidly and more cost-effectively.

Newsom’s coddling of PG&E and his maneuverings at the state and federal levels to keep Diablo running is all the more disturbing in that his motivations are based on the false narrative that these fossil and nuclear-fueled plants will prevent power outages. They will not. Energy consultant Robert Freehling explains it succinctly: “These plants were operating during the early 2000s energy crisis and in 2020. They did not prevent outages.” 

Timeline: PG&E’s disasters since 2010
ABC10 examined the disasters and wildfires caused by PG&E, starting with the San Bruno Gas Explosion in 2010 then jumping ahead 8 years to the Camp Fire.Here’s a look at the timeline of PG&E’s disasters by ABC10:2010… PG&E was convicted of six federal felonies, including obstruction of the investigation, stemming from the 2010 San Bruno Gas Explosion. The blast killed eight people. Due to this conviction, the company was placed on probation until 2022, paid a $3 million fine, and was sentenced to 10,000 hours of community service.

2017… PG&E started serving time on probation in 2017, and as a convicted felon, donated $208,000 to Gavin Newsom’s run for governor.

2018... Newsom wins the governor’s race in November of 2018. Three days later, the Camp Fire started, destroying the town of Paradise and nearby communities. The fire resulted in the deaths of 85 people. It was determined the company left  a hook hanging for nearly a hundred years until it broke, dropped a power line and sparked the fire.

2019… Problems with similar parts on a high tension power line are blamed for sparking the Kincade Fire. It burned more than a hundred homes in wine country. No one died, but it was close. Firefighters were injured while saving people. PG&E is fighting multiple felony and misdemeanor charges filed by Sonoma County in connection to the Kincade Fire.

2020… PG&E pleaded guilty to 84 felony counts of manslaughter, and one felony for sparking the Camp Fire through criminally reckless behavior. Three months after the court proceedings for the Camp Fire, the Zogg Fire broke out when a tree hit a PG&E power line in Shasta County. Four people died, including eight-year-old Feyla McLeod and her mother, both of whom burned to death running for their lives in a pickup truck. It’s an active homicide investigation and prosecutors recently announced they will be filing charges against PG&E and possibly officials who work there. The judge managing PG&E’s probation already found PG&E committed safety “violations” when PG&E’s contractors marked an unsafe tree leaning over the power line, but no one ever followed up to cut it down.

2021… PG&E’s legal obligation to find and cut trees threatening power lines is again under investigation for the Dixie Fire, which is still raging through communities ever since igniting on July 13. The fire started where a tree fell on a PG&E power line just a short distance up the Feather River Canyon from where PG&E sparked the Camp Fire. The question for investigators isn’t whether PG&E sparked the Dixie Fire, but whether PG&E is criminally responsible. That question hinges on whether PG&E should have found the tree and cut it before it fell.

https://mothersforpeace.org/governor-newsom-has-been-carrying-pges-water-for-too-long-when-will-it-end/ — includes other links

https://www.abc10.com/article/news/local/wildfire/timeline-pges-disasters/103-980fbb37-2675-4cc5-a99f-62f1d2e837d4

ABC10 series: Fire Power Money
For over three years, ABC10’s Fire – Power – Money team has been at the forefront covering California’s wildfire crisis, the danger of PG&E’s power lines, and how the company avoids accountability.
Governor Newsom, PG&E, the CPUC, and the California fires
https://www.abc10.com/firepowermoney

— Why Diablo Canyon MUST retire — Mothers for Peace SLO

From Mothers for Peace SLO

DIABLO CANYON MUST RETIRE

There’s a misguided effort being pushed forward by some well-intentioned people who have joined the Nuclear Power Fan Club. These people truly believe that nuclear power will save the planet from climate disaster, and there’s a lot of money to be made.

The newly released Stanford/MIT study recommends exploring the extension of Diablo Canyon’s license to operate in order to combat climate change, but it completely ignores important conditions at Diablo Canyon: 

1. Diablo Canyon is situated at the nexus of at least 13 earthquake faults. Two of these, the Hosgri Fault and the Shoreline Fault, are classified by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) as “major” and “active.” Keeping Diablo Canyon operating beyond its planned closure is playing Russian roulette.

2. The Unit 1 reactor vessel was manufactured in 1967. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) reported it as “embrittled” several years ago. This reactor vessel has not had a mandated ultrasonic examination in more than twenty years. If Unit 1’s reactor had to be shut down in an emergency, there’s a chance that it could shatter like a glass of boiling water suddenly plunged into ice, resulting in unimaginable consequences. 

3. Seasoned, highly skilled workers are retiring and moving on, resulting in loss of institutional knowledge about the unique idiosyncrasies of Diablo Canyon. The effect is already being felt, according to information provided to Mothers for Peace by an unnamed employee. 

4. Underground pipes were installed at Diablo Canyon in the 1970s. These pipes are subject to high pressure and cannot be inspected. A severe earthquake is all it would take to interrupt the vital cooling water to the plant. Much maintenance at Diablo Canyon has been deferred because closure is imminent. This facility is OLD. These and other components are ready to retire. 

5. The spent fuel pools are overcrowded to at least three times their original capacity. A “beyond design” earthquake (think Fukushima) could crack the pools, cause water to leak out, and the spent fuel could spontaneously ignite – the most unimaginable catastrophe possible. This is a “low probability, high risk” scenario, and it’s not considered by the NRC in spent fuel pool safety analysis because “it won’t happen.” We hope not.

6. There is exactly enough space on the dry cask storage pad to accommodate 138 spent fuel casks containing highly radioactive fuel rods that will be stored after closure in 2025. If the lifetime of the nuclear plant were extended, a whole new dry cask facility would have to be permitted and constructed to accommodate the additional toxic waste. With no federal repository for high level nuclear waste, it’s going to be stored on our fragile coastline into the foreseeable future. 

7. There is no guarantee of “steady baseload power” from a 40-year-old nuclear power plant. Unit 2’s failed main generator was replaced for nearly $100 million in 2019, but failed again in 2020, working only 30% of that year and narrowly squeaking by during the peak load energy crunches. The complex and costly repairs of aging systems are likely to multiply in the ensuing years.

One must also consider Climate Impacts and Habitat Loss from Diablo Canyon’s Operation:

1. Diablo Canyon circulates 2.5 BILLION gallons of seawater through its piping every 24 hours in a once-through-cooling (OTC) system. Diablo Canyon’s cooling system is responsible for 80% of the loss of marine life on the California Coast. OTC is no longer allowed in California, but the State Lands Commission extended the land leases to 2024 and 2025 to coincide with Diablo Canyon’s operating licenses. With rapid worldwide depletion of fisheries and aquatic biodiversity, it is unacceptable to allow decimation of marine life in order to produce approximately 8% of California’s energy. Would the Lands Commission allow another exemption and sacrifice ocean life for Diablo Canyon’s operation?  

2. The seawater intake structure is vulnerable to rising levels of ocean water brought on by global climate change. This is the water that cools the plant. During seawater’s circulation through the facility, it warms by 19°F before being discharged back into the ocean, contributing to ocean warming. Think about it: 2.5 billion gallons every single day for 40 or more years. The math and the impacts are almost incalculable.

3. Nuclear plants emit huge amounts of heat from nuclear reactions into the atmosphere 24/7. Where does the heat go? Global warming. 

4. When uranium is mined, milled, enriched, and transported to nuclear plants, there is a spike in CO2 emissions. 

5. Uranium mining has decimated some 27,000 square miles of Navajo (Diné) land spread across Utah, New Mexico and Arizona which is home to more than 250,000 people. Many Navajo people have died from kidney failure and cancer, conditions linked to uranium contamination. And new research from the CDC shows uranium in the bodies of babies born now.

6. When a nuclear plant is built, hundreds of millions of tons of concrete are also manufactured. And when the plant is dismantled, this same concrete, plus steel, electrical wiring, plumbing, and radiologically contaminated material must be hauled away. All of it contributes to climate change. 

We can do better. People of the Central Coast have put up with living in a nuclear evacuation zone for the past 40 years. Nuclear power is dirty. It’s dangerous. Don’t buy the hype.

https://mothersforpeace.org/diablo-canyon-must-retire/

— California’s Governor Newsom and Diablo Canyon

UPDATE: See below

Gavin Newsom may be forced to step down as Governor of California if a recall is approved September 14 by California voters.

He and the Democratic Party leaders are busy branding the recall a Republican effort, including a lawsuit by Newsom and divisive ads with Elizabeth Warren as spokeswoman – “distract and confuse” tactics. Many Californians are not interested in party power games and actually care about officials’ actions, such as when they protect special interests including utility companies and Big Oil, and allow risks or harm to the public and the environment.

For example, in 2016, when Newsom was Lieutenant Governor and on the California Lands Commission. Pacific Gas and Electric applied for a new permit for Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant. The plant had never had state environmental review which many now urged the Commission to require. In addition,

– in 2015, it was revealed that PG&E had used incorrect safety data – since 1982 – and altered its operating license with the help of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to appear in compliance.

– Mothers for Peace SLO reviewed data and found PG&E committed 29 safety violations in 2014 alone, including inoperable backup generators. Fukushima meltdowns were initiated when the electricity grid shut down and backup generators failed when turned on. PG&E called these violations “gaps in excellence”.

PG&E improperly packed high burn-up spent fuel rods into dry cask storage in 2015, creating a serious risk of a nuclear accident.

– the plant and its desal plant cause extensive damage to the ocean, including its devastating once-through water intake system that kills marine life.

– the plant sits amidst an active, connected network of earthquake faults

– a nuclear accident at Diablo Canyon would impact critical agricultural lands north in Monterey, San Benito, and Santa Cruz Counties, east to the Central Valley, and south to Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties, harm millions of people including Los Angeles, cause environmental destruction on land and to the Pacific Ocean, and devastate California, ranked the 5th largest economy in the world.

These are some of the issues. Friends of the Earth said in March 2015, “Diablo Canyon should never have been constructed in the first place, and now it is clear it should not be allowed to operate another day.”

Further, the Commission hearing was occurring as PG&E was on trial for the San Bruno disaster.

Despite the facts and the dangers from continued plant operation, Gavin Newsom refused to require environmental review and refused to delay the hearing to allow the public and experts to evaluate new information and Commission reports.

Instead, Newsom led the Commission in voting to approve the new permit, and applauded a recent agreement allowing the plant to operate for nine more years.

June 2016 hearing transcript; Diablo Canyon consideration starts on p. 78

Preceding April 2016 hearing transcript; Diablo Canyon starts on p. 55

Newsom’s comments at the hearings were very disturbing, given the issues and risks and PG&E’s safety history.

After 2016, California was hit with the powerful Ridgecrest earthquake and its many strong aftershocks – a powerful reminder of the daily risks. And even a power outage can cause a catastrophic nuclear accident, because nuclear power plants rely on grid power to keep fuel rods and spent fuel pools cool.

Newsom’s critical decision affecting the lives and future of so many is one example of his priorities and judgment. This is the reason many Californians support a recall.

– – –

See also:

https://nonukesca.net/diablo-canyon-shut-down-proposal-a-critical-view/

https://nonukesca.net/nrc-diablo-canyon-among-most-embrittled-plants-in-the-u-s/

UPDATE:

From ABC10 Sacramento:

Fire-Power-Money www.firepowermoney.com

https://www.abc10.com/article/news/local/abc10-originals/fire-power-money-california-wildfires-investigation-pge/103-c273fb35-1c43-4d9a-9bdc-3d7971e5540b

“For nearly three years, ABC10’s Fire – Power – Money team has been at the forefront covering California’s wildfire crisis, the danger of PG&E’s power lines, and how the company avoids accountability. 

Now, ABC10’s award-winning investigative series reveals how California’s state government, under Governor Gavin Newsom, responded to PG&E’s deadly crimes by giving the company rewards and protection.”

— Mothers for Peace argues for closure of Diablo Canyon in 2019

From Mothers for Peace
January 31, 2017

On Friday, January 27, Mothers for Peace through Ojai-based attorney Sabrina Venskus, submitted expert testimony to the California Public Utilities Commission showing that Diablo Canyon should be closed in 2019, not 2024. news release

One of Mothers for Peace’s expert witness, nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen, chief engineer for Fairewinds Associates, Inc, provided testimony demonstrating unsafe and unreliable conditions at the plant.  Arnie Gundersen testimony

Another expert witness is David D. Jackson who works with the Department of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences at UCLA.  In his testimony, Dr. Jackson explains the many types of seismic damage to the plant in case of an earthquake. Among his assertions is that the substantial risk of earthquakes at Diablo Canyon nuclear plant has been underestimated, and that the seismic studies relied upon evaluate only a part of the risk which affects any decision of how long to continue operation of the two Diablo Canyon reactors.  David D. Jackson testimony

————————————–

NEWS RELEASE

For Immediate Release

January 31, 2017

Contacts:  Jane Swanson, spokesperson

(805) 440-1359

janeslo[at]icloud.com

 

Linda Seeley, spokesperson

(805) 234-1769

lindaseeley[at]gmail.com

 

On Friday January 27, San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace (SLOMFP) through Ojai-based attorney Sabrina Venskus submitted expert testimony to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) showing that Diablo Canyon should be closed 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.

The companies that own nuclear reactors have a tendency to defer needed maintenance and replacement of worn parts when 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 a 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 of replacement or of repair of damage can be huge.

Mr. Gundersen’s testimony, attached below, cites numerous parts and components at 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, but later withdrawn.

https://mothersforpeace.org/