Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant has a long list of things to do to ensure safety – NBC Bay Area

The Diablo Canyon nuclear plant is getting a new lease on life — thanks to $1.4 billion in taxpayer-funded loans — but overseers and critics worry about the huge backlog of inspections left unanswered because that the plant was about to shut down.

“All of a sudden there are a lot more inspections that now need to be done to make sure this is being managed,” warned Richard McWhorter, a former regulator who worked decades in the nuclear industry and advises now Diablo Canyon’s state-appointed independent safety committee. . In his remarks in June, before the suspension of the factory, he added: “the quantity of work should not be underestimated”.

The investigation unit learned that the backlog of inspections includes checks needed to prevent failures in its cooling system due to corrosion. In 2020, a missed corrosion resulted in a major failure of a pipe in the plant’s emergency cooling system.

Other languishing efforts identified in the filings include delayed inspections to assess the integrity of the steel in the plant’s two reactor vessels, to ensure that their protective shells have not become brittle after years of intense radiation.

McWhorter also warned of the state of the 1968 alarm system, designed to sound the alarm of impending collapse. The system has been kept in operation with a dwindling supply of spare parts that is not expected to last beyond the originally scheduled closing date of 2025, officials said.

In any case, however, regulators agreed with PG&E that scheduled inspections and recommended upgrades did not need to be carried out because the plant was scheduled to close.

“Right now they’re using Diablo Canyon with chewing gum and baling wire,” said Loretta Lynch, former head of the state’s Public Utilities Commission and frequent critic of PG&E. “It’s one of the oldest power plants in the US fleet. So now we know that this plant has been running for almost 40 years, certainly over 35 years, and would need significant upgrades to keep it running.

Lynch wonders if all the work could be done in time to allow the plant to be renewed by next year, as currently envisaged under the extension. “It’s like spinning the Titanic in no time.”

But last month, PG&E head Tom Jones told Diablo’s oversight board that his company was up to the challenge of getting the license approved.

“It will be a huge boost, but we’re not going to fall short because of resources,” he said.

Nothing on the languid to-do list, however, answers lingering questions about how well Diablo Canyon would survive an earthquake, especially now that several flaws have been discovered since it was cleared to operate. Among them is the massive Hosgri Fault, located about two miles offshore from the plant site, north of Avila Beach in San Luis Obispo County.

PG&E and its nuclear regulators insist the plant is earthquake-resistant to survive an earthquake, but the Nuclear Liability Alliance’s David Weisman wants to see a new study to show that Diablo will not only survive, but carry on. to circulate electricity. “It’s something we’re going to insist on,” he said, “because that’s the only reason this factory should be running.”

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