The California State Lands Commission approved PG&E’s proposal on Monday (Aug. 20) to do high-energy seismic surveys in the Pacific Ocean near Diablo Canyon Power Plant.
If all the necessary permits are granted by state and federal agencies, the high-energy study could begin this fall.
“The Commission’s approval of the environmental impact report and permit is a significant step forward in receiving the necessary approvals to conduct this important seismic research,” said Jearl Strickland, PG&E’s director of nuclear projects.
He added: “Seismic safety is a top priority at Diablo Canyon. PG&E’s state-of-the-art, advanced seismic program supports the continued safe operation of the plant and will help ensure the safety of critical infrastructure in our community. In the interests of our local residents, we are focused on completing the studies in a reasonable time period and with the least impact to the environment.”
The technologies and methods to be used to conduct the final high-energy study were developed in consultation with experts from the National Science Foundation, Columbia University, the University of Nevada-Reno, Scripps Institute of Oceanography, and private industry. The work will use an appropriate industry-standard research vessel.
PG&E’s advanced seismic research was called for by the state and includes the use of a combination of on-shore 2D and 3D studies, off-shore 3D low- and high-energy surveys as well as the ongoing use of seismic monitoring devices. PG&E has made steady progress toward completing these studies since 2010. The onshore work is nearly complete, the majority of the 3D low-energy offshore studies are finished, and the California Coastal Commission has approved the request to install ocean-bottom seismometers to detect seismic activity
The studies will provide an accurate, detailed picture of the seismic characteristics of the area and add to the library of seismic knowledge that PG&E has amassed over the past few decades through its long- term seismic monitoring program.
PG&E has pledged that it will share information collected from the studies with local public and government agencies so it can be used in emergency preparedness plans. The data also will be used to support federal requirements for new seismic risk evaluations following the Fukushima Daiichi power plant tragedy in Japan in 2011.
In the interest of local residents, PG&E is focused on completing the critical studies in a reasonable time period and with the least impact to the environment. PG&E has implemented specific procedures and processes to monitor and protect marine wildlife to mitigate potential impacts.
Under the approved State Lands Commission permit, the surveys can be conducted in November and December of this year, and during the same time period in 2013.
If other needed state and federal approvals are granted, PG&E’s goal is to survey two of the identified survey tracks this year and to focus on the third remaining track in 2013. During and after the first survey track is conducted, PG&E will evaluate mitigation measures to ensure their effectiveness and will make any appropriate modifications.
Of note, November and December is when there are the fewest number of marine mammals off the Central Coast. It is also a low fish larvae period.
PG&E knows that these high-energy studies could impact local commercial fisheries. That’s why the utility is engaged in ongoing discussions with fishing representatives and has presented them with an offer of compensation that exceeds the value of their average gross catch during the fall season dating back to 2006. PG&E has an established claims process in place for all parties that are potentially impacted by the work. Potential claims will be fast-tracked and the process will be managed locally.