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Finding the fault 

The Central Coast’s legislative geology geek, Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee, is continuing to press for detailed studies of the earthquake danger at the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant. With his new bill, AB 42, Blakeslee hopes to find out exactly what’s going on below the water.

Blakeslee, SLO County’s Republican representative who also holds a doctorate in geophysics, has historically kept an eye on the viability of Diablo Canyon for California. He authored AB 42 this year, which could force PG&E to use three-dimensional seismic mapping technology to scan for earthquake fault lines along the ocean floor near Diablo Canyon.

Other methods have been used before, Blakeslee said, but they’re outdated and less detailed than his preferred 3D maps.

In November, geologists found what is widely believed to be a second fault. PG&E officials already knew about the extensive Hosgri fault zone, which snakes down the coast about three miles away from Diablo Canyon. The newly discovered fault, however, is about 1,600 feet offshore and could be capable of producing a magnitude 6.5 earthquake.

AB 42, if approved, would tag on the heels of AB 1632, another Blakeslee bill that required an assessment of California’s two nuclear power plants before they apply for new licenses from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. An earthquake could be financially devastating if it damaged Diablo Canyon, Blakeslee argues. A 2007 earthquake knocked out a Japanese nuclear power plant that cost hundreds of millions of dollars to bring back online.

It’s unclear where funds would come from, but the state Public Utilities Commission recently gave PG&E permission to use $16.8 million to study whether it would make financial sense to relicense the plant in 2025.

PG&E spokesperson Emily Christensen said in a statement that the company is beginning the third year of a five-year earthquake study and “continually evaluates the current state of seismic knowledge, and applies new information to help ensure that the plant is seismically safe.”

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