Officials mull seismic tests near PG&E's Diablo Canyon nuclear plant

AP File PhotoPG&E wants to discover if faults found in 2008 near Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant are connected to others that have already been studied

AP File PhotoPG&E wants to discover if faults found in 2008 near Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant are connected to others that have already been studied

Plans to use an array of powerful air cannons in an undersea seismic study near a Central California nuclear power plant have federal and state officials juggling concerns over marine life with public safety.

PG&E wants to use big air guns to emit strong sound waves into a large, near-shore area that includes parts of marine reserves to make three-dimensional maps of fault zones, some of which were discovered in 2008, near its Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.

But a state study — mandated by Assembly Bill 1632, which was signed into law in 2006 — found the project is likely to have “unavoidable adverse effects” on marine life and the environment. Biologists, environmental groups and fishermen have opposed using the high-energy air guns, saying the blasts have the potential to harm endangered whales, California sea otters and other creatures frequenting these waters.

“There are many uncertainties on the impact of this type of operation on whales, especially since we have not seen this type of large air gun survey off California for a long time,” said John Calambokidis, an Olympia, Wash.-based marine biologist who has studied Pacific Ocean whales for decades.

The $64 million, ratepayer-funded effort to understand seismic threats to the plant has intensified since the disastrous 2011 Tohoku quake and tsunami, which disabled reactors at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. Quake experts were surprised by the 9.0-magnitude quake on a fault that scientists did not believe would produce a quake stronger than 8.0.

Although the Japan disaster demonstrated that predicting the strength of a quake on a given fault is an inexact science, PG&E wants to know if the newly discovered faults near San Luis Obispo are connected to existing ones that have already been studied.

EarthquakenewsSan FranciscoUS

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Police Chief Bill Scott on Wednesday said a rebranding and reoganization of the former Gang Task Force amounts to “more than just the name change.” (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Faced with surge in shootings, Chief Scott reenvisions SFPD’s Gang Task Force

New Community Violence Reduction Team adds officers with community-policing experience

Stores including Walgreens and Safeway are required to pay their employees additional hazard pay under a city ordinance that is currently set to expire later this month. (Shutterstock)
Grocery workers could gain additional weeks of $5 per hour hazard pay

San Francisco will vote next week on whether to extend a law… Continue reading

The fatal shooting of San Francisco resident Roger Allen by Daly City police on April 7 prompted protests in both cities. (Jordi Molina/ Special to the S.F. Examiner)
Daly City approves body-worn and vehicle cameras for police after fatal shooting

Daly City officials on Wednesday approved body and vehicle cameras for police… Continue reading

Baseball Hall of Famer Willie Mays attends an event to honor the San Francisco Giants' 2014 World Series victory on Thursday, June 4, 2015, in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)
Willie Mays turns 90: San Francisco celebrates the greatest Giant

By Al Saracevic Examiner staff writer I couldn’t believe it. Willie Mays… Continue reading

Ja’Mari Oliver, center, 11, a fifth grader at Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy, is surrounded by his classmates at a protest outside the Safeway at Church and Market streets on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 in support of him following an April 26 incident where he was falsely accused by an employee of stealing. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
School community rallies behind Black classmate stopped at Safeway

‘When you mess with one of us, you mess with all of us’

Most Read