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Diablo Canyon nuke plant quake study is opposed

Posted: November 6, 2012 12:00 p.m.
Updated: November 6, 2012 12:00 p.m.
 

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. (AP) — California Coastal Commission staff members have opposed an offshore earthquake survey near the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, saying it could disturb and even kill marine animals.

The commission was expected to vote Nov. 14 on a request by Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to conduct the survey over hundreds of square nautical miles off the San Luis Obispo County coast.

Dozens of endangered and protected species use the survey area, which includes portions of two state marine protected areas and is near a national sanctuary.

During the study, blasts from air cannons would create strong sound waves in the waters near the coastal plant. The waves would be used to create three-dimensional maps of fault zones on the sea floor.

The blasts, tentatively planned for later this year, could cause disturbances among some 7,000 whales, porpoises and other marine mammals, according to a staff report last week to the commission.

That includes about 2,000 harbor porpoises that live in and around Morro Bay. The blasts also could destroy millions of larvae from fish and invertebrate species, the report said.

"The staff is saying that the potential impacts of this project are so severe that a seismic survey should be the last alternative," Alison Dettmer, the commission's deputy director of ocean resources, told the Los Angeles Times (http://lat.ms/VxflYu ). "Theoretically, they could come back later and apply again."

The Diablo Canyon plant produces enough electricity to power more than 3 million homes.

State law mandated that the company conduct extensive seismic studies. The $64 million, ratepayer-funded effort to understand seismic threats to the plant has intensified since the disastrous 2011 Tohoku quake and tsunami that disabled reactors at Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.

PG&E has said it would carefully monitor the area and halt the blasts if marine mammals are too close.

"PG&E is committed to conducting this proposed seismic research safely and in an environmentally responsible manner," PG&E spokesman Blair Jones said. "Similar research is performed around the world without harming marine life."

"If the commission decides they won't grant a permit, we'll have to evaluate why they made such a decision to determine our next steps," Jones told the San Luis Obispo County Tribune (http://bit.ly/RbLC33).

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

 

 

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