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[cdn-nucl-l] Diablo plant cooling deal dissolves
Posted in the SanLuisObispo on July 11, 2003 and at:
Don't warm the water...
Diablo plant cooling deal dissolves
Water quality board members deem damage offset inadequate
SAN LUIS OBISPO - A deal to allow the continued use of seawater to cool
Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant collapsed Thursday, sending Pacific Gas
and Electric and state water officials back to the negotiating table.
After a daylong hearing, the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control
Board withdrew its support for a settlement with the utility to offset the
damage the plant does to the marine environment in exchange for a renewal of
its license for the next five years.
The plant will continue to operate under the old license.
In March, the nine-member board approved a settlement, called a consent
judgment, that would have required PG&E to conserve 2,000 acres of land
north of the plant and pay more than $4 million toward marine restoration
However, support for that plan deteriorated significantly after many
experts, including a panel of three marine biologists the board had hired as
consultants, said the deal is not sufficient to make up for the damage the
plant does to the ocean.
"This consent (judgment) fish we've been carrying around is starting to
stink, and I don't support it anymore," said Chairman Bruce Daniels of
Although a few of the board members, including John Hayashi of Arroyo
Grande, still support the deal, the board voted unanimously to postpone
action on the item to an unspecified future meeting, in effect withdrawing
The board members also told staff members to investigate other ways to
offset the damage of the cooling system as well as possible enforcement
action against PG&E. They also said they want a working group convened to
advise them on the technical issues.
The plant's huge cooling system sucks in and discharges more than 2 billion
gallons of seawater a day. The water is 20 degrees warmer when it is
released back into the ocean.
Scientists said this massive flood of warm water had degraded the ecosystem
of the discharge cove. The system also kills significant numbers of larvae
of near-shore fish and crabs.
PG&E officials said they were "extremely disappointed" that the deal had
fallen apart. The utility has been negotiating with the water board for a
decade to find a way to solve the marine issues associated with the plant
"We've been working for years to put a deal together to resolve this to
everyone's satisfaction," said Bill Roake, PG&E spokesman. "We've spent ...
$6 million to $8 million studying this issue."
Environmentalists, however, were pleased. They were critical of the deal
because it did little to directly compensate for the damage the plant
"They made a very wise decision," said Pete Wagner, a Sierra Club activist
from Morro Bay. "Too many questions were up in the air."
The board members said they want to keep the land conservation option, the
centerpiece of the deal, on the table. However, support for it dwindled
significantly during the course of Thursday's hearing.
Board member Daniel Press of Santa Cruz said conserving nearly seven miles
of coastline does nothing to replace the lost larvae and damage from the
Jeffrey Young of Santa Barbara said any benefit of a conservation easement
on the parcel will not be realized for decades because the property will
stay undeveloped and off-limits to the public for at least as long as the
power plant is in operation.
The board was unanimous in wanting to see ocean monitoring continue at the
plant. Years of studying sea life near the plant has given scientists a
unique data- base of information.
Under the now-defunct deal, that monitoring would have ceased. Many board
members said continued monitoring would be helpful in determining if future
marine enhancement projects are working.
Other board members said they want to find a way to quantify how many fish
the plant kills and find a way to compensate for them.
Environmentalists as well as the state Department of Fish and Game want the
water board to consider funding a proposal to establish no-fishing zones
along the coast that would act as nursery areas for a variety of marine life
degraded by overfishing, power plants and other human impact.