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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

IS THIS THE BEGINNING OF THE END OF NUCLEAR POWER FOR CALIFORNIA?

The nuclear cataclysm at Fukushima 17 months ago triggered countries like Germany and Switzerland to terminate their nuclear electricity program.  Japan has re-started two reactors, but 48 (the six at Fukushima, 4700 MW, will never be operational again) remain inactive.  The two new nuclear powerplants under construction were suspended.


Eight months ago the 2200 MW San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in Southern California (between Los Angeles and San Diego) was shut down because of a radioactive steam leak.  Seven million live within 50 miles of this power plant.  As you can see above, it is right on the beach and on first glance, does not appear to be well protected.  However, there is a 25-foot tsunami wall and the system was built to withstand a 7.0 moment magnitude (MM) earthquake.  There is an active fault zone five miles off the coastline.  On the other hand, Fukushima never, ever, expected that 9.0 MM earthquake 16 miles away in the ocean.


While this facility first opened in 1968, that first unit was decommissioned 20 years ago.  However, the two "new" ones came on-line a little less than 30 years ago, and in 2009 was upgraded with two new steam generators for $700 million.  The inside word is that one of the two reactors will be decommissioned, but there is hope to re-start the other.  The expected PR is beginning, as the hot summer and subsequent air conditioning burden could well induce blackouts.


There is a second set of nuclear reactors, built in the mid-80's, 2200 MW, at Diablo Canyon, on the beach near San Luis Obispo in central California.  Just around the time this facility came on-line, a seismic fault was discovered several miles offshore.  The power plant now can withstand a 7.6 MM earthquake.  It is here because, like at San Onofre, seawater is needed to cool the process.  But, incredible as it may sound, this site is built right over a geological fault line, very close to another and not that far from the San Andreas Fault (this is the one that caused the Great 1906 San Francisco calamity and where extremists say could result in part of California falling into the ocean).  

After Fukushima, PG&E asked for three years to prepare new seismic studies for re-licensing.  As Diablo Canyon in 1981 experienced the largest arrest total (1900) in the history of the U.S. anti-nuclear movement, some expanded protests will no doubt return to this region soon.

Thus, California is on the cusp of becoming the first major nuclear state to possibly outlaw nuclear.  Thus, yes, this is the beginning of the end.

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It looks like Typhoon Kai-tak, now at 75 MPH, is appearing to sway south of Hong Kong:


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