Saturday, September 29, 2012

PG&E reduces seismic testing proposal

PG&E revised its project this morning to include only the survey of Box 4 in Estero Bay. The area is shown on map 2.2-1 on page 2-3 on the Final Environmental Impact Report. Additional detail of exactly where the ship will be, to turn around and cover the area, is on map 2.5-7 on page 2-21.

PG&E asked the Coastal Commission to hear its application at the November 14-16 meeting in Santa Monica instead of the October meeting.  Details will be posted on the commission's web site. 

While this is welcome news, the project remains devastating to the environment, with even less justification. The data that can be gathered from this small area will add little is anything to the knowledge of the threat of earthquake faults to Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant.

Over objections of Central Coast residents and environmental groups, Pacific Gas & Electric plans to map earthquake fault zones near its Diablo Canyon nuclear plant by blasting high-decibel air cannons under the surface of the ocean.

PG&E's plan calls for towing a quarter-mile-wide array of underwater "air cannons" that emit 250-decibel blasts into the ocean every 15 seconds for 12 straight days. The sonic reflections would be picked up by underwater receivers and analyzed to provide detailed 3-D images of the geometry, relationships and ground motions of several fault zones near the Diablo facility, which generates enough energy to meet the needs of more than 3 million Northern and Central Californians.
"What we're after with this survey is the geophysical equivalent of a CT scan — a combination of imagery and information that we could slice and dice and scrutinize in great detail," said Jearl Strickland, director of nuclear projects for PG&E. "These kinds of surveys are being performed right now around the world with no problems."
Opponents say the method threatens sea creatures from Central Coast rockfish to whales, and they dispute PG&E's claims that there are no alternative, less harmful technologies available for the job.
"We're not saying seismic testing isn't needed," said Andrew Christie, director of the Santa Lucia Chapter of the Sierra Club. "We want them to take the time to explore potential alternatives that could do less environmental harm and provide better data."
Of particular concern are potential effects at the Point Buchon State Marine Reserve, a protected sanctuary, as well as on a population of about 2,000 harbor porpoises that reside in and around scenic Morro Bay. Harbor porpoises are acutely sensitive to manmade sounds, which makes them especially vulnerable to hearing loss and injury during the survey.
PG&E says environmentalists' fears are unfounded. The utility acknowledges that environmental effects will be significant and likely to include temporary displacement of most of Morro Bay's harbor porpoise population. But PG&E says it believes the survey's benefits outweigh the environmental costs. The California Public Utilities Commission ordered PG&E to conduct the risk assessment.
The utility initially planned to survey 90 square miles of coastline for 30 days beginning Nov. 1. But facing questions from state permitting agencies about potential environmental effects, PG&E on Thursday scaled back the scope and duration of the project's first phase to demonstrate its safety and effectiveness.
The modified proposal would survey 51 square miles, stretch over 12 days and focus on portions of the Hosgi, Los Osos and newly discovered Shoreline fault zones in the Estero Bay area. It would not reach into the Point Buchon area.
If all goes according to plan, the project will be expanded next year to include two other areas targeted for surveys near Diablo Canyon, including a portion of Point Buchon.
The California Coastal Commission plans to vote Nov. 10 on PG&E's request for a coastal development permit needed to begin work offshore. Later, the California Department of Fish and Game must accept or reject PG&E's request for permits to harass, but not injure or kill, protected fish and marine mammals in the survey area.
In a recent letter to the Coastal Commission, the Natural Resources Defense Council warned that approval of the permits would "set a harmful and legally dubious precedent of allowing adverse impacts to the biologically significant habitats and species in California's marine protected areas in the absence of compelling public need to do so."
The organization also argued that the survey is not essential to assessing earthquake risks and is not likely to result in improvement in the nuclear plant's safety. In a separate letter to the commission, the Surfrider Foundation suggested that in-depth analysis of existing seismic data and "worst-case-scenario models" would provide equally effective emergency preparedness and response strategies.
Other critics have suggested that PG&E use a larger vessel capable of towing longer lines attached to 10, instead of four, geophone receivers to record the echoes of the blasts. That way, researchers could cover a wider area in a shorter period.
PG&E dismissed that idea because a larger vessel would not be able to traverse relatively shallow waters, which it says is essential to the study.
The survey was scheduled for November and December to avoid the peak breeding seasons of harbor porpoises and southern sea otters, as well the highest densities of migrating blue, fin and humpback whales. Certified "protected species observers" will be onboard vessels at sea and in airplanes, on the lookout for injured animals and carcasses. High-intensity blasts will be preceded by low-frequency sound waves aimed at scaring off fish and marine mammals.
If a sea otter were observed in the vessel's path, or a whale were spotted within a mile of the operation, the air cannons would be shut down within seconds, PG&E said. The number of southern sea otters in the proposed study area is 352, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The death or injury of an endangered species would trigger an investigation that could potentially result in prosecution, according to Christine Patrick, spokeswoman for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.
"All those precautions might help animals that can swim away," said environmental activist Julie Tacker of Los Osos. "But what about those that can't, such as abalone, clams and starfish?"
Those kinds of animals tend to congregate near shore and are not expected to be affected by the air cannons, which would be pointed straight down in water more than 75 feet deep, PG&E officials said.
Similar high-energy seismic surveys are planned for 2013 in coastal waters off Southern California Edison's San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in northern San Diego County.

Locally, Matt Fountain of New Times covered the Fish & Game Commission meeting:

Pacific Gas & Electric took a verbal beating from the California Department of Fish and Game Commission when the energy company went asking for a permit to conduct its upcoming seismic studies, which will result in some degree of harassment of local marine life populations.
On Sept. 24, the five-member commission voiced concerns over the surveys, but admitted they have no authority over whether department staff issues the permit or not. Department staffers told New Times that they’re holding off on finalizing the permit until a laundry list of other state and federal agencies have had the chance to weigh in.
Following the roughly 40 people who spoke before the commission against the proposed studies, commissioners minced no words in voicing their opposition to expected “take” of marine wildlife, as well as possible effects on marine protected areas directly to the north of where the surveys are to take place.
“It’s a marine life protected area, not a marine life killin’ area. And as long as I’m here, we’re not going to recommend to the department anything that’s killing anything we’re trying to protect,” Commissioner Jim Kellogg told a cheering audience.
PG&E Spokesman and Pismo Beach Mayor Pro Tem Kris Vardas—abandoned by his fellow PG&E staffers who left for another meeting—testified that the company is in the process of spending approximately $4 million on a monitoring program to make sure no wildlife is harmed, including an underwater remote-operated vessel to scan beneath the waves for signs of injured fish and marine mammals.
Should wildlife be found injured or worse, operations would be shut down and investigated by the U.S. Marine Fisheries Service, as the waters would essentially become “a crime scene,” which goes beyond the scope of PG&E’s permit, Vardas said.
The commission also seemed baffled about what useful information the studies would glean, and how it would contribute to the ultimate goal of improving understanding of the seismic risk around Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.
“I’m not convinced that nuclear safety would be advanced, as some people have alluded to,” Commissioner Michael Sutton said. “The only useful significant outcome I can see in this is that it might give us sufficient information that the seismic risk is so great that the plant should be decommissioned.”
The California Coastal Commission is expected to decide on whether to issue a coastal permit at its Oct. 10 meeting.
“I would encourage [the coastal commission] to proceed with caution,” Commissioner Richard Rogers said. “Any uncertainty of this magnitude is a very dangerous thing.”
Aside from the coastal commission and the Department of Fish and Game, PG&E still needs permits from the National Marine Fisheries Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Regional Water Quality Control Board, and the California Department of Parks and Recreation before it may begin the studies.
New Times cover story put the damage into visual terms. 

Fountain also wrote about problems with the research vessel that will be hired to do the work:
It’s the same type of testing used to explore for offshore oil deposits.
According to the NSF’s Zacharias, the foundation has yet to solidify its contract with PG&E.
However, both State Sen. Sam Blakeslee (R-San Luis Obispo)—whose legislation mandated the studies—and county supervisor Bruce Gibson—who sits on the project’s Independent Peer Review Panel to oversee its operation—have been outspoken over their concerns about the Langseth not being “up to industry standards.”
The vessel came into service in 2008, but has only been operating in its current joint role as an academic-commercial seismic vessel for a little more than a year, following several years of dry-dock and various improvement upgrades. According to records of its stakeholder committee, it’s encountered mechanical and environmental problems in the past, and questions over whether it is fitted with the most up-to-date equipment have come up.
The 2008 minutes of a Marcus Langseth Oversight Committee meeting features a laundry list of various mechanical improvements it needs to get in “working condition.”
According to minutes from 2010, the Langseth’s operator reported marine mammals and smaller fishing vessels “snagging” the towed arrays during a 2009 cruise. In a separate cruise that year, the Langseth was forced to de-obligate a $1.3 million contract when a software-related problem caused an issue with the ship’s multibeam following a supposed upgrade.
In July 2011, the ship’s committee reported buying a new steamer and other equipment from Western Geco—a company Gibson had urged considering for the survey—worth a reported $5 million to $6 million, according to the report. The used equipment was purchased for a mere $400,000.
“This is helping to bring the gear to more modern standards,” the report reads.
According to a December 2011 report, approximately $8 million has been spent on upgrading the Langseth since 2008.
Others have pointed out that the boat is owned by the NSF, which is currently one of the agencies from which PG&E is awaiting approval.
A Federal Register notice detailing PG&E’s requested take was posted Sept. 19. Public comments will be accepted until Oct. 15.
Given approval by the California Coastal Commission—expected in mid-October—and the California Fish and Game Commission, surveys are expected to commence in November.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Northern Chumash Statement on seismic testing

The Northern Chumash Tribal Council (NCTC) is a tribal governing body whose members are from San Luis Obispo County and they have been the living continuum of Chumash Peoples for over 18,000 years.  Living along this sacred coastline in San Luis Obispo County, we are Stakeholders.  NCTC was formed under the guidelines of Senate Bill 18 as a State Recognized Tribal Government.   NCTC corporate office is located at 67 South Street San Luis Obispo, CA 93401.  NCTC is dedicated to the preservation of Chumash Culture and Heritage, meaningful consulting with local governments, consulting with the development community, and changing government policy for better tribal community well-being.


AB 1632 requires that as part of PG&E’s electricity and natural gas forecasting and assessment activities, to compile and assess EXISTING scientific studies, as specified, to determine the potential vulnerability, to a major disruption due to aging or a major seismic event, of large base load generation facilities of 1,700 megawatts or greater, including a specified analysis of the impact of a major disruption on system reliability, public safety, and the economy.  AB 1632 does not require NEW studies.  There are low level seismic studies and the onshore seismic studies data that is more than enough to show the connectivity of the faults under the power plant.  The proposed seismic studies are not necessary.
Every environmental impact report and environmental impact statement has concluded the environmental devastation would be long-lasting and far reaching. The Environmental Assessment for the Diablo Canyon Seismic project admits “take” or “harassment” will potential cause the death, or torment by permanent deafness, which to a whale, means a slow, lingering death of the partial following mammals list:
  • Minke whale
  • Sperm whales
  • Dwarf sperm whales
  • Blue whales
  • Humpback whales
  • Fin whales
  • California gray whales
  • Short-finned pilot whale
  • Bird’s beak
  • Killer whales
  • Striped dolphins
  • Small beaked whales
  • Dell’s porpoise
  • Long-beaked dolphins
  • Rise’s dolphins
  • Northern right whale dolphins
  • Pacific white-sided dolphins
  • Bottle-nose dolphins
  • Short-beaked dolphins
  • Harbor seals
  • California sea lions
  • Southern sea otters
  • Untold sea turtles of several varieties
  • Numerous fish and bird species
  • The next generation sea life including nearly billions of larva’s of all types
NCTC advocates that the seismic testing be stopped to allow time to thoroughly explore other technologies not harmful to marine life.  There is no date collection for science that is worth the possible destruction of the warp and weave of the basket of life.


Off shore unregistered Chumash Sacred Sites must be treated the same way as on shore Chumash Sacred Sites are treated.  No one would let anyone harm the animals that live on or near Chumash Sacred Sites on land, why would anyone allow this to happen off shore.  Before any activity that might impact a Chumash Sacred Site mapping and surveying must be done to understand how the proposed activities might affect the Chumash Cultural Resources.   All Chumash Sacred Sites must be surveyed and mapped before any project is approved in this sensitive area.


On and after August 11, 1978, it shall be the policy of the United States to protect and preserve for American Indians their inherent right of freedom to believe, express, and exercise the traditional religions of the American Indian, Eskimo, Aleut, and Native Hawaiians, including but not limited to access to sites, use and possession of sacred objects, and the freedom to worship through ceremonials and traditional rites.
The off shore unregistered Chumash Sacred Sites all have great significance for our Chumash Nation, the possibility of having our ancient sites disturbed by seismic blasting would affect the religious significance of the Sacred Sites along our coastline.
The Chumash creation story “The Rainbow Bridge” story talks of how the Dolphins became our ancestors, this is part of which we are, it is a part of our creation story, and it is a magical story for our children growing up receiving great joy from the magic of life.
The potential killing of Dolphins and Whale along with other sea life is not acceptable; any harm would be a violation of the Native American Freedom of Religion Act as these animals are a part of our creation story and our ancestors.


Article 19
States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.
The Northern Chumash Tribal Council does not give consent to cause irreparable harm to the sea life along the San Luis Obispo county coastline. International Treaties are in play because many of the mammals that pass through our coastal water are protected by other international treaties, the entire UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is in full effect by reference.


Section 30230 Marine resources; maintenance Marine resources shall be maintained, enhanced, and where feasible, restored. Special protection shall be given to areas and species of special biological or economic significance. Uses of the marine environment shall be carried out in a manner that will sustain the biological productivity of coastal waters and that will maintain healthy populations of all species of marine organisms adequate for long-term commercial, recreational, scientific, and educational purposes.
The potential harm to any sea life would be a violation of the California Coastal Act.
The location of the survey area sits between two National Marine Sanctuaries and has itself qualified for National Marine Sanctuary Designation since 1990. The sonic blasts will be too intense at 250 decibels for marine life to remain viable. The entire marine web-of-life will be destroyed.
Sanctuaries provide enhanced safeguards for species within their boundaries, a protection that is lost when they leave. Other protected areas along or at the terminus of a migration route or that cover areas for important life stages of living marine resources (e.g., nesting areas for seabirds, pupping areas for seals, fish spawning aggregation sites, larval dispersal and sink sites), provide the same kind of enhanced protection. Forming relationships and developing joint projects among countries with areas of biophysical connectivity will increase the protection to these often endangered and otherwise vulnerable species.
These resources are extremely important for our coastal communities to grow into the future, we are protecting them, please assist us in not destroying our priceless resources.


The coastal communities are not prepared for this ocean disaster that will end commercial fishing for an unknown length of time.  The Morro Bay and San Luis Harbor fishermen have worked for decades to create sustainable locally “branded” fishing. They now stand to lose their livelihoods.  There is no mitigation for returning the fish and their web-of-life.  All things are tied together and the effects of seismic testing along the coast are not in the best interest of the people who live here and who have lived here for over 18,000 years.


  1. To protect the natural diversity and abundance of marine life, and the structure, function, and integrity of marine ecosystems.
  2. To help sustain, conserve, and protect marine life populations, including those of economic value, and rebuild those that are depleted.
  3. To improve recreational, educational, and study opportunities provided by marine ecosystems that are subject to minimal human disturbance, and to manage these uses in a manner consistent with protecting biodiversity.
  4. To protect marine natural heritage, including protection of representative and unique marine life habitats in California waters for their intrinsic value.
The destruction of our MPA’s after we have spent so many years working to protect them and now when they are working with the other environmental programs in place to bring back our local fisheries it is not the time to destroy them but it is the time to protect them for the future generations.  We the Native Community understand that it is vitally important to make decision that look out into the future 7 generations, only then are you truly making sound decisions.  There is no sound decision making in this project, it is completely out of balance with all the elements of life.  This project must be looked at as a whole not as just the data that will be collected, that is a very small part, the bigger picture is the environment, to get a small percentage of data at the sacrifice of a potential large sacrifice of sea life is not acceptable.
The Northern Chumash Tribal Council stands to protect our Sacred Land and our Culture, please assist us in our stand for dignity and peace with the Sacred Heritage of our land as we attempt to protect our culture for future generations to come.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

Elders Council
Northern Chumash Tribal Council

Thursday, September 20, 2012

COAST opposes seismic testing

An alliance of organizations and individuals has formed to  oppose PG&E's seismic testing.  Find out more on Facebook or Yahoo.
The C.O.A.S.T. (Citizens Opposing Acoustic Seismic Testing) Alliance, a diverse coalition of individuals, associations and government and non-government organizations is unified in the goal of ending any efforts to permit and undergo high intensity acoustic seismic testing by PG&E in the regions surrounding the Diablo Canyon Power plant on the central coast of California.

Position Statement:
In recognition of the significant biological impacts and the resulting negative impacts to our coastal economy, C.O.A.S.T. seeks a cessation to all preparations for offshore acoustic testing now in progress and an end to all plans to engage in high intensity acoustic testing as means for seismic mapping. The Alliance further recognizes that testing new faults is not mandated in AB 1632 and that the only legal mandate is to review and assess existing studies and thereby makes the proposed testing superfluous and not a legal requisite to adhere to the legislation. We insist that the permitting process cease in accordance with the fact that an issuance of the permit would not comply with the Coastal Act, Chapter 3 and would be in violation of the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the California MLPA (Marine Life Protection Act), and the Magnusen-Stevens Fisheries Act, as well as several established international marine conservation laws. Further, we insist that the permitting agencies follow the precautionary principle as it relates to biological communities and recognize their responsibility to the human communities involved and to the devastation that the acoustic seismic testing would wreak on the economy of the Central Coast. We understand and agree that mitigation of said impacts by PG&E is an unacceptable option and cannot be construed as a responsible solution to the impacts of high intensity acoustic seismic testing both now and in the future.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Mothers for Peace on seismic testing

San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace
P.O. Box 3608
San Luis Obispo, CA 93403

For Immediate Release                  Contacts:   Jane Swanson      
September 15, 2012                         
                                                               (805) 595-2605
                                                               Elizabeth Apfelberg
                                                               805) 783-2383
San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace supports gathering seismic information about the earthquake faults near Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant. In the wake of the Fukushima disaster and PG&E's application to renew the licenses, seismic studies must be done to learn more about the potential dangers posed by earthquake faults to the two nuclear reactors and the tremendous amount of high-level radioactive waste that has accumulated on site over the past 28 years.
The current proposed plans for seismic studies offshore and near Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant were set in motion by AB 1632, an act of the California State Legislature. AB1632 is being implemented by the California Public Utilities Commission. At present, Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) plans to conduct these studies from November - December 2012, with the possibility of the tests being divided into two parts in successive years at the recommendation of the California State Lands Commission. Mothers for Peace asserts that there are additional faults that also need further study in order to determine whether they might lead to more severe consequences than either the Hosgri or Shoreline Fault. These faults include the Diablo Cove Fault, which runs directly under the Unit 1 reactor, the San Luis Bay Fault, and the Los Osos Fault.
San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace shares the concerns of many local citizens and organizations about the extensive harm that will be inflicted on marine life if these studies are carried out as currently designed. PG&E’s plans rely largely on extremely loud underwater air guns, which are acknowledged by all parties to be highly disruptive to the ocean environment. Mothers for Peace urges extreme caution in the method used to obtain data about the faults in the 530 square nautical miles of the proposed testing area.
Because of grave and valid concerns voiced by the fishing and environmental communities, Mothers for Peace advocates that the seismic testing be delayed to allow time to thoroughly explore other technologies less harmful to marine life, and baseline studies of marine life must be completed and analyzed before any testing begins.
Because there is no plan for storing the radioactive wastes for the 250,000 years they will remain lethal; because Homeland Security classifies all nuclear facilities as targets of terrorism; and because of the 13 earthquake faults in the area around Diablo Canyon, San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace for decades has recommended that the plant be shut down and all stored radioactive waste transferred to hardened casks as soon as possible.

COAST Alliance formed

About 30 people attended a meeting at Mark Tognazzini’s Dockside restaurant Friday night to form Citizens Opposing Acoustic Seismic Testing (COAST) Alliance. The alliance brings together groups that oppose Pacific Gas & Electric’s seismic testing as well as individuals.

Groups represented include Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo fishermen’s groups, Morro Bay City Council, Morro Bay’s Harbor Advisory Board and Stop Diablo Canyon Seismic Testing Facebook page. Representatives of other organizations will confer with their boards for formal approval of joining the alliance. Morro Bay has a page on its official web site about the project. The public can sign up for automatic notification of updates. The Rock's web page is also posting reports

Meeting organizer Mandy Davis proposed writing a mission statement of opposition to any kind of seismic testing. She’ll present it at the next meeting, 7 pm Wednesday September 19 at the Morro Bay Vets’ Hall.

Steve Mathieu of AGP Video, which records and broadcasts public meetings, suggested contacting the state Fish & Game Commission to request a remote meeting site be set up in Morro Bay for the commission’s September 24th special informational meeting on the project. Emails must be directed to Sonke Mastrup, Executive Director of the Fish & Game Commission,, no later than Monday, September 17, in order for a remote site to be set up in time for the meeting.

The alliance’s goal is to stop the tests.


Noah Smukler,

Friday, September 7, 2012

Seismic testing background

Sam Blakeslee proposed the law, [AB 1632, 2008], when he was serving in the State Assembly. He is now a State Senator. He's got the technical background, bachelor's and master's degrees in geophysics from University of California, Berkeley. Furthering his education, Senator Blakeslee earned a Ph.D. from University of California, Santa Barbara for his research in seismic scattering, micro-earthquake studies, and fault-zone attenuation. He worked for Exxon and got a patent in exactly this specialty, an innovative technique that used medical cat-scan technology to create detailed images of geologic formations, according to his official bio.

AB1632 does not mention seismic testing of the kind being proposed. Its actual wording includes:
"the [California Energy] commission shall perform subsequent updates as new data or new understanding of potential seismic hazards emerge." and
"(8) (A) Compilation and assessment of existing scientific studies that have been performed by persons or entities with expertise and qualifications in the subject of the studies, to determine the potential vulnerability, to a major disruption due to aging or a major seismic event, of large baseload generation facilities, of 1,700 megawatts or greater."

Seismic testing is related to relicensing of Diablo Canyon. Its license to operate expire in 2024 and 2025. A report on decommissioning the plant has been done. It's pretty much focused on the loss of jobs and property taxes the plant pays, $27 million. That makes it important and attractive to the county. The report assumes that only fossil fuels can replace nuclear power. That's a position open to debate.

In the meantime, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has suspended relicensing until issues surrounding spent waste storage are resolved, a problem they've been working on unsuccessfully for decades.

From World Environmental News: The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) directed its staff on Thursday to start an environmental review into the temporary storage of spent nuclear fuel, following a court ruling that led the agency to stop issuing new reactor licenses.
The NRC did not say when it would start issuing new reactor licenses again.
The NRC has more than a dozen reactor operating license renewal applications and a dozen new reactor license applications pending.
The NRC said it told its staff to develop an environmental impact statement and a revised waste confidence decision and to rule on the temporary storage of spent nuclear fuel.
The environmental statement and rule, which are in response to a June 8 ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, are to be completed within 24 months, the NRC said.
The Appeals Court ruled that the NRC should have considered the potential environmental effects in the event a permanent repository for disposing of spent fuel - like the long-delayed Yucca Mountain proposal - is never built, among other things.
"Resolving this issue successfully is a Commission priority," NRC Chairman Allison Macfarlane said in a statement.
"Waste confidence plays a core role in many major licensing actions, such as new reactors and license renewals," she said.
The NRC said "waste confidence" means that spent nuclear fuel can be safely stored for decades beyond the licensed operating life of a reactor, without significant environmental effects. It enables the NRC to license reactors or renew their licenses without examining the effects of extended waste storage for each individual site pending ultimate disposal.
On August 7, the Commission issued an order that the NRC will not issue licenses dependent on the waste confidence rule - such as new reactors and renewal of existing reactor operating licenses - until the Court's demand is appropriately addressed.

New NRC chair Allison Macfarlane has placed geologic issues at the top of her agenda. In a report from Hearst's Washington Bureau
Allison MacFarlane, the new chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, is a geologist — the first to lead the commission. And she views that as a fortunate thing for the commission and the industry.
Unsurprisingly, after Fukushima made plain the intersection of geology and the nuclear industry, MacFarlane is determined to reexamine earthquake risk and preparedness within the industry. “Geology is dynamic,” she said Tuesday, pointing out that knowledge of geology is constantly changing. For instance, she said, until the quake that caused the devastating Indonesian tsunami in 2004, scientists had not thought “megaquakes” were a big risk in subduction zones — something we now take for granted.
What does that mean for the relicensing of plants with potential seismic issues, like New York’s Indian Point? MacFarlane refused to speculate, saying only that “Geology matters,” and one of her four immediate goals as chair of the commission is to use knowledge of geology to make plants safer.
MacFarlane’s comments came at a press conference at the National Press Club sponsored by IHS Energy Daily.
Read the rest of the article here.

While earthquake safety is primary, the romance with technology and 3-D seismic images comes at the expense of the marine environment. AB1632 makes is easy to make the case for seismic testing as the State of the Art technology but that conflicts with state laws such as California's Marine Life Protection Act, which only in June joined all areas along California's coast in protection, and the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act. Abandoning the protections of these laws in favor of another is unacceptable.

If Diablo Canyon can't withstand an earthquake, fortify it or decommission it. Get data on earthquake faults other ways. Technology is always improving. We can and must do better.

Fish & Game Commission meeting

The California Fish & Game Commission has scheduled a special meeting to consider PG&E's seismic testing proposal, although it's unclear what authority they have over the project. Comments are welcome.  Send them to, mailing address is: California Fish & Game Commission, PO Box 944209, Sacramento, CA 94244-2090., before the September 24 meeting.

The California Public Utilities Commission approved additional charges to customers to pay for seismic studies that have now sparked protests against them.

"In this reopened application, Pacific Gas and Electric Company requests authority to recover in customer rates an additional $47.5 million above the $16.73 million approved in Decision 10-08-003, for a total of $64.25 million, to perform additional seismic studies recommended by the California Energy Commission. We grant the application."

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Seal days

The political distraction of seismic testing takes me away from my main interest in being here, the elephant seals. These youngsters show a nice comparison of proboscis development: The one at center left, looking to the right, is just beginning to grow one, about five years old. He looks at one with a bigger nose, probably a year older. Closer, the large seal facing left, is probably a seven-year-old.

The young of the year, the pups that were born last January and February, are returning from their first migration. This might be one of them. About half a dozen small animals were on the beach today.
Overall, the beach has plenty of room for the number of seals. This is the low point for the population, this transition from adult males molting to the juvenile haul-out. I'll post pictures of the same scene in future weeks to show the increasing crowd arriving on the beach.