Seismic testing off Central Coast

This is a guest commentary about this very important issue. And the photos of the whales in Avila Beach, by Maryanne Avila, are used with express permission of the photographer. The commentary is used with permission of the author.

Radiation Nation

by joey racano

In a long ago, far away world, three judges -all of whom would later become infamous for other reasons- sat together on a Washington DC appeals court. That court ignored science, evidence and safety, and made the fateful decision to allow the construction of Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant right on top of known, live, active earthquake faults.

For the record, those judges were Antonin Scalia, now a member of the United States Supreme Court and well known right wing ideologue who never met an oil refinery or nuclear power plant he didn’t like; Kenneth Starr, who overlooked nukes on faults but as special prosecutor found enough fault with then President Bill Clinton to prosecute him for the Monica Lewinsky affair, and Judge Robert Bork. Bork rose to infamy when Ronald Reagan appointed him to the Supreme Court. That appointment failed because Bork had protected Nixon by firing the special prosecutor, which the Attorney General resigned rather than do.

Suffice it to say that the Nuclear Power Plant built in Devil’s Canyon started out bad, grew worse, and is now quickly becoming a melodrama.

“What’s all this got to do with whales,” you ask? The answer is, plenty. As the years went by, not only did the hidden and ignored earthquake faults become public knowledge, but new faults were being found on an almost regular basis! The Diablo Cove fault apparently runs directly beneath Unit 1 reactor, the Shoreline Fault runs right out in front of the plant, and the San Simeon, Hosgri and San Gorgonio faults all line up together to form one enormous 250 mile fault line capable of generating an earthquake bigger than Diablo Nuclear Plant can ever be retrofitted to withstand.

Perfect Storm

When the new head of Chernobyl was asked recently his estimate on when people could again populate the area, he was quoted as saying, “About twenty thousand years.” Then, there is the black spectre of Fukushima, whose molten reactor cores now drench the coast of California with radiation. Tuna caught off San Diego have tested positive 14 out of 14 times. Radioactivity from Fukushima has been found concentrated in the kelp of Santa Cruz. In San Onofre, the Nuclear Plant there has been shut indefinitely because of worn out pipes! With this perfect storm, it is no wonder people are backing away from nukes.

But don’t expect Nukes to go gently into that good night, no sir.

Rather than do the obvious, which is shut all nuclear plants forever and start figuring out what to do with waste (accumulating at 500 pounds a day at Diablo alone) and stays deadly for a million years, instead the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is out playing Public Relations Man for Pacific Gas & Electric (see photo of them at Farmers Market booth in San Luis Obispo).

In a misguided attempt to make inroads against Diablo Nuclear Power Plant, environmental groups sought to have seismic testing done offshore, to get a better look at the faults and the threat they pose to public safety. Then Assemblyman now State Senator Sam Blakeslee, a rare republican with an environmental ethic, wrote the bill (AB1730) in 2006 that moved the California Legislature to order seismic tests.

Unfortunately, the extreme destructive nature of such tests are only now becoming clearly understood, and it appears that much sea life -including Great Blue Whales- will be destroyed in the process. These tests involve carpet bombing the sea floor with 260db soundblasts every 13 seconds around the clock for about a month, and may have to be repeated again next year. The tests are scheduled from Nov – December, 2012, just a few short weeks away. This is further problematic because Humpback whales are in Avila and Port San Luis in numbers never before seen. The whales are here feeding on Krill, who are feeding themselves on nutrient-rich upwellings from cold waters below. Some say the whales, who are more intelligent than humans, somehow know of their impending doom.

When a member of the NRC public relations staff asked me if I thought it was really possible, I retorted with, “Well, my dog knows 15 minutes before I get home.”

Tainted Process

Thus far, the seismic project has passed the State Lands Commission, and must still clear the California Coastal Commission, and the Fish and Game Commission. But when the State Lands Commission voted, it was a vote not by the Commissioners themselves that moved the project ahead, but rather, the vote was taken only after they were all replaced temporarily with alternates, making for a shady decision that may not stand. Indeed, the press is now carrying the story of a man who drove from Redding to Sacramento to speak, only to be shut down when he questioned the validity of such a switcheroo. The Commission was forced to publicly apologize for muzzling the man, who was invited back up to finish his speech, which he did- but the damage was done.

Protected Areas

Finally, when this gets to the Fish and Game Commission, the question before them will be, how to put a price on a whale? An entire species of Harbor Porpoise? Otters? Fish? Lost economy? And how to put a dollar value on the loss of 9 years of hard work and science, having created the new series of Marine Protected Areas designated off our coast, including the Point Buchon State Marine Reserve, which is expected to be cleansed of all living things -including whales- by the sonic blasting?

Better to just remove the Power Plant.

Remember- seismic testing puts us all in danger, by allowing Pacific Gas and Electric to delay removal of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant which sits atop an earthquake fault.

Joey Racano

Joey Racano: ‘Weapon of mass discussion’