Seismic Shocks Like Turkey’s Could Make California a Radioactive Wasteland

Harvey Wasserman / Reader Supported News
Seismic Shocks Like Turkey’s Could Make California a Radioactive Wasteland In 2013 the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s senior resident site inspector, Dr. Michael Peck, warned that some critical instrumentation might not survive potential shocks, leading to a major catastrophe. (photo: Mark Ralston/Getty)

Seismic shocks such as those devastating Turkey and Syria could be turning California into a radioactive wasteland as you read this.

They could shake the two decrepit atomic reactors at Diablo Canyon, near San Luis Obispo, into mega-lethal rubble. Their fallout’s incalculable health, ecological and economic devastation could render the region uninhabitable for centuries to come.

Diablo’s two outdated nukes are surrounded by seismic faults. In 2013 the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s senior resident site inspector, Dr. Michael Peck, warned that some critical instrumentation might not survive potential shocks, leading to a major catastrophe. .

Peck’s warning was ignored. He was transferred to a training site in Tennessee and has since retired.

In February, 2019, more than 2500 Californians asked Gov. Gavin Newsom to back an independent study of the two Diablo Units, now nearly 40 years old. Jane Fonda, Martin Sheen, Lily Tomlin, Eric Roberts, Jodie Evans and Graham Nash were among the Hollywood signatories.

The petition requested a closer look at Unit One’s embrittlement, a well-known generic defect that threatens some older reactors with apocalyptic shattering of the reactor cores. Cracked pipes, faulty storage, deferred maintenance, persistent cooling issues and more still feed widespread concerns that the outdated reactors - designed in the 1960s - are too dangerous to operate.

Components for Unit One arrived on site in 1967. Despite many flaws—-a major component was installed backwards—-it was licensed to begin operations in 1984. Some 10,000 peaceful demonstrators were arrested as they protested licensing.

Unit One's license will expire in 2024; Unit Two in 2025.

In 2016, a Joint Agreement to shut the two reactors by the end of their current licenses was reached by Pacific Gas & Electric, the California Public Utilities Commission, the state Assembly, the plant’s unions, nearby local governments, local, state and national environmental groups, then-Gov. Jerry Brown and then-Lieutenant Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The reactors are now nearly 40 years old, about average for the US fleet of 92. But in an infamous recent midnight session, Newsom got the legislature to allot a billion dollars to keep the reactors going. Another billion-plus is expected from the federal Department of Energy.

Diablo was largely built before the 1973 public disclosure of the Hosgri fault, about three miles off shore from Diablo’s core. Around a dozen interlinked fault lines have been since identified, some within a half-mile radius. PG&E claimed its design capacity was at 6.5 magnitude on the Richter scale—-later upgraded to 7.5—-but critics are skeptical.

The massive San Andreas fault is 45 miles from Diablo. Fukushima was twice that distance from the shock that caused its Units One, Two, Three and Four to explode. A key factor there was the loss of off-site power necessary needed to cool the reactor cores, but some experts argue Unit One was already melting due to the quake’s shock waves.

The far stronger shocks in Turkey have hit 7.6 and 7.8, affecting more than 20 million people, killing more than 15,000. Thankfully, Turkey has no operating nukes. But questions have escalated about one under construction.

Chernobyl, in Ukraine, exploded in 1986. It blew lethal clouds deep into western Europe, then up to atmospheric streams that carried them all over the northern hemisphere. Measurable fallout killed birds at the Point Reyes Station north of San Francisco, then sailed across the northern tier of the US

At Fukushima, prevailing winds blew radiation out to sea, sparing a possible evacuation of Tokyo. In 1966, amidst a near-explosion at the Fermi I reactor, Michigan authorities contemplated evacuating Detroit.

Prevailing winds at Diablo head straight into Los Angeles. But they sometimes pivot into the Central Valley and up to the Bay Area. Deadly fallout could thus turn the Golden State into a desolate radioactive wasteland.

Overall damage to human health, ecological sustainability and our fiscal future would reside somewhere between incalculable and incomprehensible.

Nuclear pushers claim their plants are safe. But since the first US commercial reactor opened 65 years ago, no private insurer has stepped up with comprehensive financial protection. The 1957 Price-Anderson Act exempts reactor owners. In case of disaster, your loss of life, health, family and property is yours to bear.

The federal reactor disaster fund is a minuscule $13 billion. California has no public resources to cover the loss of life and property a quake-stricken Diablo could cause. Nor does it have meaningful plans to evacuate those downwind in heavily populated Los Angeles, San Diego or San Francisco.

California gets far more usable electricity from rooftop solar than from Diablo. Yet as Newsom strong-armed the Assembly to subsidize those reactors, his CPUC slashed grid payments from decentralized solar panels, which have twice saved the state from blackouts.

For the past seven years, PG&E has been preparing the reactors for shut down. Maintenance has been deferred as reactor components have aged along with the workforce, whose retirements could leave the nukes short-handed.

All-in-all, Diablo is a terrible Devil’s bargain that needlessly imperils us all.

It needs to shut….NOW!

Harvey Wasserman wrote THE PEOPLE’S SPIRAL OF US HISTORY and SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH at, where the petition asking Newsom to inspect Diablo resides. Most Mondays, 2-4pm Pacific, he co-convenes the Green Grassroots Election Protection zoom (

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