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PG&E says Diablo fuel cask snafu didn't endanger safety 

Officials insisted that the improper loading of casks that store spent fuel at the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant didn’t compromise public safety.

The issue came up during an annual public meeting in SLO on June 24 that included top plant officials and representatives from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

According to documents posted on the NRC website, Diablo Canyon reported that 17 of 29 dry casks used to store spent fuel weren’t loaded to the manufacturer’s technical specifications, particularly as they relate to the proper ratio of older and newer spent fuel.

PG&E’s Ed Halpin, the senior vice president and chief nuclear officer for the Diablo Canyon plant, stated that the cask issues weren’t in line with the technical specifications but didn’t constitute a safety concern. Throughout the meeting, Halpin and other company officials stressed a “safety culture” mindset at the plant, where employees are encouraged to come forward with issues or concerns.

“It was an issue where we identified an issue, and we reported it to the NRC,” he said.

Not everyone at the meeting was convinced, especially the members of Mothers for Peace, an activist group that advocates for shutting down Diablo Canyon. During the meeting’s public comment period, Jill ZamEk said several of the plant’s safety issues were due to human error.

“Overwhelmingly, the root cause of the violations point to human deficiencies,” she said.

The casks were one segment of the lengthy meeting, which mainly focused on Diablo’s safety assessment for 2014. Between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31 of 2014, the plant racked up more than 7,300 hours of inspection and assessment activities. According to information provided at the meeting, the plant had one finding categorized as a “low-to-moderate” safety risk for that period. That finding came after an inspector discovered that Diablo’s emergency plan didn’t include protocols for evacuating boats at sea within 10 miles of the plant. Diablo’s Site Vice President Barry Allen said the problem was discovered by Diablo staff.

“We resolved that issue, and public health and safety was never jeopardized,” Allen said.

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