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Part 2: Dangers of Nuclear Power in California by Guest Blogger Grant Marcus

March 27, 2011

In part one of this three part post by my friend Grant Marcus, he says that THE MAIN LESSON TO LEARN FROM JAPAN IS: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A PEACEFUL ATOM. Grant’s a poet, peace activist and more. A registered nurse for 26 years, he was co-founder of the Abalone Alliance, a group that opposed the licensing of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, and was a spokesperson for the Abalone Alliance from 1973-1986.  He is also founder of Nurses for Social Responsibility. He was arrested at Diablo Canyon seven times, protesting the use of nuclear power near a faultline.


The disaster in Japan recalls an old question, is nuclear power worth those “tolerable” fatalities?  Are a few to a few hundred, to thousands of deaths tolerable if it’s your mother, your father, your two year old child, your grandmother?

Is it worth it if we, the public, are held hostage by the possibility of a nuclear catastrophe in San Onofre or Diablo Canyon, when both utilities are surrounded by faultlines, and have been called into question regarding earthquake preparedness?  Are the plants built to withstand mother nature, and its fault systems?

The San Onofre plant has already experienced the brink of disaster, when mice, that’s right, mice ate through electrical lines, which provided power to circulating cooling water furnishing the reactor core.

The Diablo (devil) Canyon Nuclear Power Plant is the most controversial power plant ever built in the U.S.  The Abalone Alliance was formed when California politicians failed to legislate adequate safety standards for nuclear reactors built on faultlines.  In 1977, 1,500 people demonstrated against the plant and 47 were arrested.  Four years later, 10,000 people rallied and 487 people were arrested.  In September of 1981, there was a march of 30,000 up the coast, and 1,960 were arrested, including 40 professors, and the entire San Luis Obispo City Council.  Ed Asner and Jackson Browne were held with the others at a college gynasium, acting as a temporary detention center.

At the end of a ten-day civil disobedience, an engineer discovered a mirror image reversal in the seismic blueprints. PG&E had designed one of its Diablo facilities backwards. The NRC approved the plant anyway.

Diablo Canyon sits vulnerably in a pristine area off the California coast near Avila Beach.  PG&E bought land in Avila, then bought the Shell geological study allegedly to keep the public from knowing about the Hosgri fault system, just 2 1/2 miles off shore from the reactor.  The Hosgri fault produced a 7.1 earthquake in 1927.  PG&E built the plant to withstand a 7.0 quake, but then someone from Shell finally came forward and exposed the faultline, and the dangers the plant had yet to be designed for.  As it turns out, the Hosgri fault is connected to the San Andreas fault system, making it a far more powerful faultline.

Some geologists have determined an 8.7 quake can occur at Diablo from off the shore, followed by a tsunami.  PG&E has rebuilt the plant for a 7.5 quake.  There are no safety considerations for a tsunami, and there are no evacuation plans for the public.  Complete seismic studies have yet to be done at Diablo, though requested by California legislators. Diablo Canyon is simply Fukushima West waiting to happen.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has always known about the vulnerability of nuclear power.  One of their own declassified reports concludes that there is a 50/50 chance of a major nuclear accident occurring.  That accident, with today’s California population levels and dollars, could cause a disaster that would kill tens of thousands of people, and cost trillions of dollars in damage, while effecting the entire California coast for generations.  Are reactors built on faultlines worth that kind of risk?  Are any reactors, in the face of human paradox, that nuclear power must be run perfectly by our imperfect humanity worth the risk of destroying California, or anywhere else?  And can these imperfections around the country supercede the mutable powers of mother nature?

*Sources of this article: Union of Concerned Scientists, daily updates, March 14- March 19; Interview, Helen Caldicott, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Friends of the Earth, Los Angeles Times, CNN, DemocracyNow! (Reports/interviews with enviornmentalists, physicists, and nuclear engineers); NRC, IAEA, Nuclear Free World, National Geographic, and ERDA(Energy Research & Development Admin.)


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