Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, reiterated on Friday her call to ensure that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission does not move forward with the relicensing effort under way for the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant until advanced, peer-reviewed seismic studies of the area are completed by offering an amendment to the fiscal year 2012 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill.

The amendment would have prohibited the issuance of a draft environmental review for the license renewal. It failed in the House of Representatives on a largely party line vote of 152-269. Click here for video of Capps’ floor statement.

“The safety of my constituents continues to be my No. 1 priority, and that’s why I offered this straightforward amendment to ensure the NRC does not move forward with the relicensing effort currently under way at Diablo Canyon until advanced, peer-reviewed seismic studies of the area are completed and the findings are shared with the NRC,” Capps said. “While the outcome of this vote was expected, it’s clear that many of my colleagues now share a concern that this relicensing process is still going forward — despite the fact that virtually all of the decisions that will be made about the relicensing of the plant could be affected by what PG&E’s seismic studies tell us in the coming years. The cart is clearly being put before the horse, and we need to rectify this going forward.”

Capps’ amendment follows on a number of actions she has recently taken to ensure the public’s safety in the relicensing process of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant.

» On March 22, Capps toured Diablo Canyon with Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

» On March 24, Capps called on the NRC to pause the relicensing process.

» On April 12, Capps testified before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

» On April 15, Capps and state Sen. Sam Blakeslee co-authored an op-ed piece detailing why the relicensing process should be paused.

» On May 4, Capps questioned NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko at a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

“Diablo Canyon provides over 3 million people in California with affordable electricity. It provides many good-paying jobs, and it’s an important element of the tax base in San Luis Obispo County,” Capps said. “But this amendment was about safety, and we all agree that safety must be everyone’s No. 1 concern. In the weeks and months ahead, I’ll be doing everything possible to ensure this is the case.”

Capps’ floor statement in favor of her amendment follows:

“Mr. Chairman, it’s my hope that we can all agree to this amendment.

“It would simply bar the NRC from issuing a draft supplemental environmental impact statement for the license renewal of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant. The purpose of this amendment is to ensure the NRC does not move forward with the relicensing effort currently under way at Diablo Canyon until advanced, peer-reviewed seismic studies of the area are completed and the findings are shared with the NRC.

“These advanced seismic studies are needed because the U.S. Geological Survey announced in 2008 the discovery of a previously undetected fault line — the Shoreline Fault — which runs within a few hundred yards of Diablo Canyon. The NRC also recently confirmed that Diablo Canyon is one of two nuclear power plants in the highest risk seismic areas in the country.

“Without these studies, we cannot say for certain whether an earthquake along the Shoreline Fault or others nearby would result in a severe nuclear accident.

“It’s important to note, Mr. Chairman, that my amendment only affects the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant. It will not shut down the power plant. Nor will it to stop the relicensing effort or even prevent PG&E — the plant’s operator — from gaining new operating licenses to run Diablo Canyon in the future.

“Instead, it would simply ensure the NRC gets answers to the unstudied and unresolved seismic questions before it issues the draft environmental report.

“My amendment is also consistent with PG&E’s own request that the NRC delay the final issuance of the plant’s license renewal until its seismic research in the area is completed. The NRC has also made clear it will review those findings before making a decision on whether to grant renewed operating licenses for the plant to PG&E.

“Moreover, last month PG&E asked the California Public Utilities Commission to suspend proceedings associated with license renewal funding for Diablo Canyon until its advanced seismic studies are finished and the findings have been submitted to the NRC.

“Unfortunately, work on the relicensing effort continues, even though the seismic studies have not been completed and won’t be for several years, and even though the outcome of these studies could very well affect every operation at the plant.

“Mr. Chairman, we need answers about the seismic risks at Diablo Canyon and what steps are needed to address them and prepare for any disaster, and we need them before the relicensing process moves forward.

“I urge my colleagues to join me in voting yes on this straightforward amendment to ensure an evaluation of the risks that the offshore faults pose to Diablo Canyon.”

— Ashley Schapitl is press secretary for Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara.