Gene Nelson, Ph.D. 17 June 2015 Edited Comments to the Diablo Canyon Independent Safety Committee (DCISC)
This is the version of my comments that will appear in the NRC report released to the public regarding the 28 April 2015 meeting between the NRC , their consultants, and the owner of Diablo Canyon Power Plant (DCPP).
“The staff received a comment from Dr. Gene Nelson (Physical Sciences professor at Cuesta College and Government Liaison for Californians for Green Nuclear Power) via email during the meeting. The NRC staff inadvertently missed the opportunity to acknowledge Dr. Nelson’s comment during the meeting.”
“According to Dr. Nelson, Diablo Canyon has favorable site conditions, which attenuate or dissipate earthquake energy over relatively short distances. Due to these favorable conditions, the primary earthquake forces seen by the plant would be dominated by nearby earthquake sources and energy transmitted to the plant would be dominated by the small section of the earthquake rupture closest to the plant.”
“Dr. Nelson stated that when considering the information presented at the meeting of overall plant ruggedness and the seismic hazard insights discussed above, Diablo Canyon will continue to operate safely – with generous safety margins – during anticipated earthquakes.”
I am a Physical Sciences professor at Cuesta College and serve as the Government Liaison for Californians for Green Nuclear Power (CGNP.)
In advance of this meeting, I submitted for the DCISC record about 250 pages of scientific, engineering, and economic analysis regarding the Diablo Canyon Power Plant (DCPP.) I am the author of of the comments that preceded the published articles that I curated.Here are some of the salient points in this submission:
DCPP continues to operate safely as the largest power generator by far in California, generating annually about 18,000 GWh of carbon-free low-cost high-reliability power. (For those not familiar with very large numbers, that is 18 followed by 12 zeros Watt-hours.) The low cost and high reliability subsidizes the production of solar and wind power – and stabilizes the California electrical grid with regards to the intermittent and irregular production of power by these sources.
Without DCPP’s power, California would need to import even more dirty coal power from out of state. With the premature forced closure of SONGS in 2012, the CEC tabulated that California imported in 2013 about the same amount of dirty coal power from out of state that had been previously generated by SONGS each year prior to 2012. These out-of-state coal powered generating plants dramatically diminish air quality throughout the region and are some of the worst CO2 sources for power generation in the World. With more attention being given to Global Warming by many levels of government including the Governor of California, members of the Californians for Green Nuclear Power (CGNP) Board and members of the Thorium Energy of Silicon Valley (TESV) Board strongly urge PG&E to work with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to offer California ratepayers a 100% nuclear power option on their electric bills to fight global warming. Dutch and German 100% nuclear power programs are already operating successfully. Both the CGNP and TESV Boards also appreciate that DCPP is willing to share up to about 800,000 gallons/day of surplus desalinated sea water with the drought-parched communities near the plant. Many scientists believe that Global Warming has worsened California’s drought, so seawater should be desalinated by carbon-free power.
DCPP’s earthquake risk is exaggerated by its opponents. While many of those opponents indicate that they do not understand the underlying science and engineering, the key point is that each earthquake safety analysis shows the substantial seismic margins for DCPP for any credible earthquake in the area. Everything in the plant is rugged. As an example, the DCPP containment domes, with 3 foot-thick reinforced concrete walls and six layers of wrist-thick steel reinforcing bars have a 100% safety margin. To show the massive scale of the steel reinforcing columns in the DCPP Turbine Building, here’s a recent photograph taken by John Lindsey of myself and a tour group of Cuesta College students. I’m the man in a green shirt at the right hand side of the [photo].
To help the public to understand some of the paleogeological concepts that were the topic of DCISC discussions on June 15, 2015, it should be noted that San Luis Obispo has the world’s best-preserved example of lateral stream displacement from strike-slip earthquakes on the Carrizo Plain. The San Andreas fault, about 33 miles away from DCPP, caused the lateral stream displacement. The public can examine and walk through this informative site. Posted signage assists the viewer’s interpretation.
Similarly, the opponents of DCPP exaggerate the tsunami risk of DCPP. Earthquakes in the region are strike-slip, which don’t tend to generate large tsunamis, unlike earthquakes in subduction zones. The coastline in front of DCPP is not conducive to producing large tsunami waves. Critical plant safety systems are 85 or more feet above sea level. The paper cited yesterday by Jane Swanson of Mothers For Peace (MFP) appears to show the incorrect year, as the large Japanese Sanriku Tsunami occurred a few minutes after the 15 June 1896 magnitude 8.5 earthquake in the subduction zone 103 miles offshore at 19:32 local time. With a simultaneous high tide, local wave heights reached 125 feet. There were at least 22,000 deaths from the tsunami. As an illustration of how tsunamis diminish with distance, the huge 22 May 1960 magnitude 9.5 earthquake in the subduction zone off the coast of Chile caused tsunami waves of 25 meters near the earthquake’s epicenter. When those waves crossed the Pacific Ocean, they reached the Sanriku coast of Japan 22 hours later.
The tsunami height had diminished to 3 meters there. I am grateful that the DCISC is comprised of knowledgeable and experienced scientists and engineers who routinely practice critical thinking when evaluating the value of the evidence provided to them by experts and the public.