Thursday, January 11, 2024

#11 / An Aging Nuclear Plant And Earthquake Faults

Three members of the California Public Utilities Commission have decided to let PG&E keep operating its aging Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant. The plant is located a little over eleven (11) miles from the city of San Luis Obispo (population approximately 48,000 people; I am not clear whether that figure includes students at Cal Poly). 

The official evacuation zone set for U.S. plants, by the federal government, is ten (10) miles. However, after the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster in Japan, the U.S. government recommended that Americans relocate to at least fifty (50) miles from that plant.

A decision was made some years ago to phase out the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. High costs and the possibility that continued operation might lead to a massive nuclear catastrophe were the reasons given for the earlier order. 

Scratch that decision! Now, the plant will be allowed to continue to operate until at least 2030, according to the news article linked above. This will undoubtedly mean higher electricity costs for California ratepayers. In addition, the citizens who spoke out against this decision raise extremely legitimate concerns: 

Those who spoke raised issues such as the age of the plant, the integrity of the containment chambers for the nuclear reactors, and the plant’s location near what one speaker called a “latticework” of earthquake faults.

No mention in the article about ocean-related problems (like those that caused the Fukushima disaster), though we live in a time when wildly irregular storm events and rising sea levels have combined to cause completely unpredicted damage. 

When a society faces difficult problems, one way to overcome them is to give ourselves no other option - to eliminate any "easy out." How will we meet California's future energy needs, in a way that minimizes costs to consumers and maximizes public safety? Well, if we want new and creative solutions, the Public Utilities Commission has just done exactly the opposite of what it should have done. 

But, hey, why worry about the possible problems? Really! What's the chance of anything really going wrong? 

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