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Lessons From The Fukushima Disaster For California

March 10, 2015 1:19 p.m.

Lessons From Fukushima Disaster - California's Vulnerability

GUESTS:

David Victor, professor, UC San Diego's Graduate School of International Relations

Rochelle Becker, executive director, Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility

Related Story: Lessons From The Fukushima Disaster For California

Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

I'M TOM FUDGE SITTING IN FOR MARINE HAVE NOT AND YOU'RE LISTENING TO CAPE EVS. HERE SOME OF THE STORIES WERE FOLLOWING IN THE CAPE EVS NEWSROOM. SCRAPS FRANCHISE GRAHAM HAS BEEN PLACED ON LOCKDOWN ALL OFFICERS SEARCH FOR A POSSIBLE ARMED MAN REPORTED NEAR CAMPUS. SAN DIEGO PLEASE SEND STUDENTS ARE SECURE IN THEIR CLASSROOMS UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. A 30-YEAR-OLD SAN DIEGO MAN IS FACING UP TO SIX MONTHS IN CUSTODY NOW THAT HE'S ADMITTED TO KNOWINGLY ASK POSING HIS THEN PARTNER TO THE HIV VIRUS. THOMAS GARRETT PLEADED NO CONTEST TO A VIOLATION OF THE STATE HEALTH CODE. THE CITY ATTORNEY'S OFFICE SAYS THIS CASE IS THE FIRST OF ITS KIND TO BE PROSECUTED IN SAN DIEGO. HEALTH OFFICIALS ARE WARNING DOCTORS TO BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR PATIENTS REPORTING UNUSUAL VISUAL PROBLEMS AFTER CLUSTERS OF SYPHILIS THAT CAUSE BLINDNESS HAVE BEEN REPORTED. OUR TOP STORY ON MIDDAY ADDITION FOUR YEARS AGO ON 11 MARCH A 9.0 EARTHQUAKE HIT OFF THE COAST OF JAPAN GIVING BIRTH TO A TSUNAMI THAT SLAMMED INTO THE COUNTRY'S EASTERN COAST. THIS DISASTER KILLED THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE IN THE 14 M HIGH TSUNAMI WAVE PORT OVER THE SEAWALL SURROUNDING THE FUKUSHIMA NUCLEAR PLANT SHUTTING DOWN COOLING SYSTEMS AND CAUSING A PARTIAL MELTDOWN. TODAY IN CALIFORNIA WE STILL HAVE TO NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS RIGHT ON THE COAST. ONE SAN ONOFRE HAS BEEN SHUT DOWN BUT BOTH PLANTS ARE STILL HOMES TO NUCLEAR FUEL AND WASTE THAT ISN'T GOING ANYWHERE AS FAR AS WE KNOW. TODAY WE'RE GOING TO LOOK BACK ON THE WORST NUCLEAR IS DISASTER SINCE CHERNOBYL AND ASK WHAT IT MEANS FOR US. AND JOINING ME IN THIS ENDEAVOR ARE DAVID VICTOR AND ROCHELLE BECKER. DAVID VICTOR IS AT UC SAN DIEGO. IS ALSO THE CHAIRMAN OF THE COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT PANEL CREATED BY SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA EDISON TO OVERSEE A SHUTDOWN OF SAN ONOFRE. DAVID, THANK YOU FOR COMING.
THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME. AND MICHELLE BECKER IS FOR THE ALLIANCE FOR NUCLEAR RESPONSIBILITY FOR
THANK YOU.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE LESSONS WE LEARNED FROM THE FUKUSHIMA DISASTER THAT CAN HELP US IN CALIFORNIA? I REALIZE THAT'S A BIG QUESTION BUT WHAT DO YOU THINK OF WHEN I SAY THAT?
WELL I THINK WE'VE LEARNED A LOT ABOUT REGULATION. I THINK THE DISASTER IN JAPAN HAPPENED A LITTLE BIT BECAUSE PEOPLE DIDN'T IMAGINE THE WORST CASE SCENARIO AND MOSTLY BECAUSE THE REGULATORY SYSTEM IN JAPAN IS NOT REALLY INDEPENDENT. IT'S NOT TRANSPARENT. THAT'S CRUCIAL WHEN YOU'RE WORKING WITH TECHNOLOGIES THAT HAVE RISKS. YOU'VE GOT TO HAVE A TRULY INDEPENDENT REGULATORY SYSTEM AND MILDEW THINGS THAT YOU'D LIKE OR DON'T LIKE BUT THEY ARE INDEPENDENT. YOU HAVE TO HAVE TRANSPARENCY BECAUSE OF PEOPLE DON'T LIKE THE NUMBERS THEY CAN CHECK ON THEMSELVES. WE SEE THAT RIGHT NOW AS PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT TSUNAMI RISK IN CALIFORNIA. THE NUMBERS ARE OUT THERE AND WE CAN LOOK AT WHAT THE REGULATORS SAY AND CHECK OURSELVES.
ROCHELLE COST IN QUESTION TO YOU I GUESS. WHAT YOU THINK OF THE LESSONS OF FUKUSHIMA?
I THINK THE LESSONS ARE IS EXACTLY AS DAVID PROPOSE HOWEVER I DON'T THINK WE'VE LISTENED TO ALL THOSE LESSONS. THERE WAS A REPORT YESTERDAY BY THE INDEPENDENT PEER REVIEW PANEL THAT DIABLO CANYON STATING THAT SEISMIC STUDIES DO NOT MEET THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE STATES INDEPENDENT OVERSIGHT PANEL. IN ADDITION IN SAN LUIS SAID IT IS PAUL THERE IS CURRENTLY AN ART SHOW CALL REDACTED FROM ARTICLES AND DOCUMENTS THAT WE RECEIVED BOTH FROM THE PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION IN THE NEW THAT WERE REJECTED AND REQUIRE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT TO GET THESE DOCUMENTS. WE ARE STILL HAVING A PROBLEM WITH TRANSPARENCY HERE IN THE UNITED STATES.
YES AFTER HEARING FROM DAVID I WAS GOING TO ASK QUESTION WHETHER WE IN THIS COUNTRY HAVE A REGULATORY SYSTEM THAT IS INDEPENDENT AND TRANSPARENT? WHAT IS YOUR VIEW DAVID?
I'M OVERALL PRETTY IMPRESSED BY OUR SYSTEM. NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION -- IN RESPONSE TO FUKUSHIMA -- THEY LOOKED AT WHAT HAPPENED THERE AND CAME BACK WITH A BUNCH OF CONCLUSION SOME OF WHICH THE INDUSTRY DOESN'T LIKE ABOUT THE NEED FOR ON-SITE POWER REDUNDANT EQUIPMENT AND SHARING EQUIPMENT. ALL THESE THINGS THAT ARE NOW BEING IMPLEMENTED. SOME OF THEM ARE NOT BEING IMPLEMENTED FURTHER AT A PLACE LIKE SAN ONOFRE BECAUSE IT IS NOT OPERATIONAL BUT THIS HAS BEEN APPLIED ACROSS THE ENTIRE INDUSTRY AND I WOULD SAY THAT WE STILL HAVE TO DO MORE IN TERMS OF TRANSPARENCY. THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT IS PART OF THAT. IF YOU COMPARE THE US SYSTEM WITH THE JAPANESE SYSTEM OR ANY OTHER REGULATORY SYSTEM AROUND THE WORLD, IT'S PRETTY EXTRAORDINARY WHAT WE'VE ACHIEVED.
IT IS DIFFICULT TO COMPARE OUR SITUATION TO THAT IN FUKUSHIMA BUT THERE ARE SOME SIMILARITIES BOTH NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS THERE AND HERE ARE ON THE OCEAN. BOTH ARE IN EARTHQUAKE ZONES. DAVID, CAN YOU FOLLOW UP ON THAT?
YES. SO THE DETAILS MATTER THOUGH ENORMOUSLY AND THIS IS WHERE TRANSVERSELY IS IMPORTANT. FOR EXAMPLE THE SHAPE OF THE BOTTOM OF THE OCEAN FLOOR HAS A HUGE IMPACT ON HOW LARGE A TSUNAMI WAVE CAN GET. THE IMPACT OF THAT WAVE IS WHY BLACK SPEECH HAS BIG SWAY THAN OTHERS HAVE SMALLER. THE TOPOGRAPHY OF THE FLOOR HERE IN CALIFORNIA IS VERY DIFFERENT. THE OFFSHORE ISLANDS ARE LITTLE BIT OF A SHELTERING AFFECT. SO WHEN THE LESSONS FROM FUKUSHIMA WERE APPLIED TO THE UNITED STATES IN ONE TSUNAMI RISKS WERE EXAMINED FOR MANY YEARS WE IN GENERAL HAS SEEN LOWER RISKS HERE BUT THEY'RE NOT EURO. WE FOR EXAMPLE HAVE TAKEN A VERY CLOSE LOOK AT THE ISSUES SURROUNDING THE RISKS FROM EARTHQUAKES AND DONE OUR OWN CALCULATIONS TO SHOW THAT THE EQUIPMENT THAT'S BEING PUT ON SITE TO STORE THIS NUCLEAR FUEL FOR WHAT MAY BE A LONG TIME -- THAT IS ROBUST AGAINST ANY CONCEIVABLE SCENARIO.
ROCHELLE, I'M LOOKING AT A MAP HERE OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA FALSE AND THERE IS A FAULT WHICH IS CALLED THE SAN CLEMENTE FAULT OFF THE COAST OF CALIFORNIA. IT LOOKS LIKE IF YOU HAD A BIG EARTHQUAKE THERE WE MIGHT GET A TSUNAMI ALSO. DOES THAT CONCERN YOU?
THE EARTHQUAKE ISSUE NOT ONLY CONCERNS THE ALLIANCE FOR NUCLEAR RESPONSIBILITY BUT ALSO THE STATE LEGISLATURE WHEN THEY PASS 80 1632 SEVERAL YEARS AGO. THEY REQUIRE THE UTILITIES DO NEW SEISMIC INFORMATION -- STUDIES USING STATE-OF-THE-ART TECHNOLOGY. PG&E HAS BEEN DOING THE STUDIES. HAVE NOT COMPLETED YET BUT EDISON DECIDED WAS THE PLANT WAS CLOSE TO STOP DOING THE STATE-OF-THE-ART SEISMIC STUDIES AT SAN ONOFRE AND WE ARE CONCERNED ABOUT THAT IN FACT THE PERSON IN CHARGE OF THE PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION SAID -- TOLD EDISON THAT IF HE HAD THE POWER HE WOULD FORCE THEM TO DO THE STUDIES. SO THOSE HAVE NOT BEEN DONE BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY THERE IS A THIRD NUCLEAR POWER PLANT THAT IS IN A SUBDUCTION ZONE IT DOES HAVE WASTE STILL SITTING ON SOME IN HUMBLE CALIFORNIA. THAT IS A MAJOR CONCERN IN CALIFORNIA.
NOT ACTIVE BUT HAS WASTE SITTING THERE?
THE WASTE IS THERE.
DAVID?
WE'VE LOOKED AT THIS ISSUE THE SEISMIC RISKS AND WE SPENT AN LOT OF TIME WHICH IS THE ONGOING ISSUE FOR THE COMMUNITY. THE CENTRAL QUESTION -- ONCE THE FUEL IS MOVED OUT OF THE POOLS AND INTO THESE DRY CASKS WHICH WILL BE COMPLETED ROUGHLY 2019 OR SO. ONCE THAT HAPPENS, THE CENTRAL SEISMIC QUESTION IS THE INTEGRITY OF THESE CASKS AND STORAGE SYSTEMS. IN THOSE ARE INCREDIBLY ROBUST COMPANY -- COMPARED TO THE PLANT. UNTIL THEN PEOPLE ARE LOOKING -- THIS IS ONE OF THE AREAS WHERE THE REGULATORY COMMISSION HAS REQUIRED A WHOLE RANGE OF UPGRADES AND OUR ABILITY TO KNOW THE LEVEL OF THE WATERS IN THE POOLS AND TO PUT EXTRA WATER IN OF THE POOL -- FUEL BECAME UNCOVERED.
ROCHELLE WHAT YOU THINK OF THE CASKS THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT?
I THINK THE JURY IS OUT ON THOSE. WE ARE REALLY NOT QUITE SURE. WE'RE LOOKING AT THE CASKS BUT THE ALLIANCE REALLY FOCUSES ON WHAT WE ARE GOING TO BE PAYING FOR ALL OF THIS AND WE DON'T WANT TO DO THE MORE THAT WANT SO WHATEVER TASK SYSTEM IS CHOSEN EVENTUALLY, WE WANT TO WATCH THAT CAREFULLY. THE NRC REQUIRES APPROVAL BUT YOU HAVE TO REMEMBER THE NRC APPROVES -- APPROVED THE STEAM GENERATORS. WHEN THEY MAKE A MISTAKE IT IS CALIFORNIA RATEPAYERS THAT MAKE -- PAY.
YOU MENTIONED SAN ONOFRE AND I THINK WE HAD A DECISION FROM THE PUC THAT SAID RATEPAYERS WOULD BE PAYING FOR A GOOD DEAL OF IT. IS THAT GOING TO CONTINUE TO BE THE CASE? I KNOW THERE IS SOME LAWSUITS OUT THERE.
THERE ARE LAWSUITS. THERE ARE PEOPLE THAT ARE DISGRUNTLED WHO SIGNED ON TO THE SETTLEMENT THAT NO LONGER LIKE THE SENTIMENT QUITE SO MUCH. WE DIDN'T SIGN ON. WE STILL HAVE QUESTIONS ESPECIALLY WITH THESE NEW EMAILS THAT HAVE COME AS THE RATE AND MR. PV'S HOME. WE HAVE SEEN EMAILS THAT ARE DISCONCERTING. WE HAVE -- WE NOTICED THERE ARE COSTS THAT WE DON'T ANTICIPATE PAYING. WE ARE NOT SURE WE'D COLLECTED ENOUGH MONEY TO DO THE DECOMMISSIONING PROJECT. EDISON SAYS THAT WE HAVE. LOOKING AT IT CAREFULLY MOST OF THE TIME THEY HAVEN'T MET A COST ESTIMATE BY THE TIME THEY ARE FINISHED.
YOU ARE LISTENING TO THE DAY ADDITION. IT'S THE FOURTH ANNIVERSARY OF THE DISASTER IT FUKUSHIMA JAPAN AND MY GUESS ARE ROCHELLE BECKER AND DAVID VICTOR. ROCHELLE IS WITH THE ALLIANCE FOR NUCLEAR RESPONSIBILITY. DAVID IS THE CHAIRMAN OF THE COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT PANEL CREATED BY SOCAL EDISON TO HAVE RECEIVED THE SHUTDOWN OF SAN ONOFRE. THINKING ABOUT THOSE CASKS IN THE NUCLEAR WASTE THAT IS NOW LOCATED AT SAN ONOFRE -- DAVID HOW LONG DO YOU THINK THAT WASTE IS GOING TO BE THERE?
THIS IS SOMETHING WE SPENT A HUGE AMOUNT OF TIME ON. I DON'T SEE THE JURY IS OUT. THE JURY HAS LED TO THESE QUESTIONS IN INCREDIBLE DETAIL. WE AND THE PANEL SET UP OUR OWN TASK FORCE TO LOOK AT THIS AND I WROTE A WHITE PAPER WHICH IS POSTED ONLINE. WE LOOKED AT ALL THE TECHNO -- TECHNICAL INFORMATION. WE ACTUALLY KNOW A HUGE AMOUNT ABOUT HOW TO STORE WASTE FOR THE LONG HAUL. THE BIGGER QUESTION IN THE COMMUNITY IS FOCUSING ON -- WHAT CAN WE DO TO SPEED THE REMOVAL OF THOSE CASKS ULTIMATELY FROM OUR COMMUNITY? THAT MIGHT MEAN EVENTUALLY TO A STORAGE FACILITY LIKE YUCCA MOUNTAIN. THE POLITICS ARE REALLY DIFFICULT WITH THAT. OR SOME KIND OF INTERIM STORAGE FACILITY. THERE ARE A COUPLE OF INTERESTING PROJECTS THAT ARE NOW TAKING SHAPE INCLUDING ONE NEW ONE IN TEXAS -- WEST TEXAS. THOSE ARE INTERESTING BECAUSE YOU CAN REMOVE THE FUEL FROM REACTORS THAT ARE BEING SHUT DOWN WHERE IT DOESN'T BELONG FOR THE LONG CALL AND SEND IT SOMEPLACE ELSE AT LEAST ON A TEMPORARY BASIS BEFORE THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT GETS ITS ACT TOGETHER AND FINDS A FINAL STORAGE FACILITY.
ROCHELLE CUT WE HAVE A REPUBLICAN CONGRESS WHICH IS DEPENDING ON YOUR POINT OF VIEW BOTH GOOD AND BAD. DO YOU THINK CHANGES IN WASHINGTON POLITICS MAY RESULT EVENTUALLY IN YUCCA MOUNTAIN BEING A DESTINATION FOR NUCLEAR WASTE?
I DON'T THINK YOU CAN DO ANYTHING IN TWO YEARS SO I'M NOT SURE WHAT THE CONGRESS IS GOING TO LOOK LIKE IN A COUPLE OF YEARS. I THINK IT'S A POLITICAL DECISION. WE HAD A MEETING WITH THE CITIZENS ENGAGEMENT PANEL AND THE BIPARTISAN POLICY CENTER JUST LAST JANUARY. I THINK ONE THING EVERYBODY AGREED ON IS NO BODILY TRUSTED -- NOBODY TRUSTED THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. I THINK WE NEED TO CONSIDER THIS CAREFULLY. I THINK WHEN THE FINAL NUCLEAR POWER PLANT IN CALIFORNIA IS CLOSED AT THE APPLE CAN IN YOU WILL HAVE THE SEVENTH LARGEST ECONOMY IN THE WORLD NOW LOOKING FOR A SOLUTION TO THIS WASTE PROBLEM AS A UNITED FRONT AND I THINK THAT'S IMPORTANT.
YES. I COMPLETELY AGREE THAT THIS IS AN AREA WHERE YOU SEE LOTS OF DIFFERENT COMMUNITIES STARTING TO [INDISCERNIBLE] AROUND A COMBINATION. YOU GIVE OTHER COMMUNITIES OPPORTUNITIES TO BID FOR THE RIGHT TO STORE THE WASTE ON A TEMPORARY BASIS WHICH IS WHAT WE ARE SEEING IN WEST TEXAS AND OTHER PLACES, THEN YOU HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE THE DEAL. THIS IS SOMETHING CALIFORNIA NEEDS TO ORGANIZE AROUND STRATEGICALLY. IS A LOT OF REGULATORY WORK THAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN. WHICH WILL ROADS -- RAILROADS? WE CAN DO THIS OVER THE NEXT FEW YEARS.
YOU SAID, ROCHELLE, DIABLO CANYON -- THAT PLAN IS GOING TO SHUT DOWN?
THAT WENT HAS A LICENSE UNTIL 2024. THEY ARE IN THE MIDDLE OF ACTUALLY -- TOMORROW THEY SHOULD BE PRESENTING THEIR SEISMIC STUDY. TO THE NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION. THE SEISMIC STUDY THAT THEY ARE ABOUT TO PRESENT DOES NOT MEET THE CRITERIA OR STANDARDS OF THE STATE INDEPENDENT PEER REVIEW PANEL. WHERE THIS PLANT IS GOING -- I DON'T KNOW. I DON'T THINK THEY CAN AFFORD TO CONTINUE THE OPERATION OF DIABLO CANYON BEYOND THE CURRENT LICENSE.
THAT GETS ME TO WHAT I KIND OF CONSIDER TO BE THE ULTIMATE QUESTION LOOKING AT OUR SITUATION IN CALIFORNIA. LOOKING AT FUKUSHIMA DISASTER FOUR YEARS AGO. WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF NUCLEAR ENERGY IN THE UNITED STATES AND IN CALIFORNIA? DAVID?
I THINK THE POLITICS ARE BUILDING NEW REACTORS IN CALIFORNIA ARE VERY DIFFICULT. THE POLITICS AND ECONOMICS OF DOING MORE REACTORS ACROSS THE UNITED STATES -- THERE ARE SEVERAL UNDER CONSTRUCTION RIGHT NOW AND SOME COST OVERRUNS. ECONOMICS RIGHT NOW WHEN YOU COMPARE NUCLEAR WITH NATURAL GAS ARE NOT FAVORABLE. I THINK WHEN YOU TAKE A STEP BACK FROM THIS ONE THING I WANT TO REASSURE THE COMMUNITY IS I THINK WE UNDERSTAND A LOT ABOUT WHAT FAILED IN JAPAN AND THE FAILURES WERE BOTH TECHNICAL AND FAILURES OF GOVERNMENT AND REGULATION AND SO ON. THE SITUATION HERE IS TOTALLY DIFFERENT BECAUSE OF OUR REGULATORY ENVIRONMENT AND AT LEAST IN SAN ONOFRE BECAUSE THE PLAN IS NOT OPERATIONAL ANYMORE. THE BIG DAMAGE THAT CAME FROM THE TSUNAMI CAME FROM THE COURSE OF THAT PLAN AND IT IN TURN DAMAGE THE FUEL POOLS. WE ARE IN A TOTAL DIFFERENT SITUATION. A DRAMATICALLY HIGHER LEVEL OF SAFETY.
SHELL, WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE YOUR LAST WORD ON THIS LOOKING AT THE FUTURE OF NUCLEAR POWER IN THE US?
LOOKING AT THE FUTURE I'M READING HEADLINE AFTER HEADLINE IN THE LAST WEEK ABOUT COST OVERRUNS BEING PASSED ON TO THE RATEPAYERS WHO WILL NEVER RECEIVE A KILOWATT OF POWER FROM THESE PLANTS. AS FAR AS WASTE, I'M LOOKING AT THE FOUR ACCIDENTS WE'VE HAD ON OIL TRAINS IN THE LAST FOUR WEEKS. HOW ARE WE GOING TO GET IT THERE? SO MANY UNANSWERED QUESTIONS AND I THINK THE ENTIRE FOCUS SHOULD BE ON HOW WE SAFELY RESOLVE THESE ISSUES AND HOW MUCH WE ARE GOING TO HAVE TO PAY.
ON THE DAY ADDITION WE'VE BEEN LOOKING BACK ON THE FUKUSHIMA DISASTER NUCLEAR DISASTER WHICH OCCURRED FOUR YEARS AGO. MY GUESS HAVE BEEN MICHELLE -- ROCHELLE BECKER. THANK YOU FOR COMING IN.
THANK YOU.
AND DAVID VICTOR WHO IS OPPRESSED -- PROFESSOR OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AT UC SEE IN YOUR BOOK AND CHAIRMAN OF THE COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT PANEL CREATED TO OVERSEE THE SHUTDOWN OF SAN ONOFRE. DAVID, THANKS.
THANK YOU.