Memories of a Movement by Mark Evanoff
DIABLO CANYON: CONSERVATIONISTS AND INDUSTRIALISTS COOPERATE
“Protecting something as wide as this planet
is still an abstraction for many. Yet I see
the day, in our own lifetime, that reverence
for the natural systems—the oceans, the
rain forests, the soil, the grasslands, and
all other living things—will be so strong
that no narrow ideology based on politics
or economics will overcome it.”
Governor Jerry Brown,
speaking at 1979 rally against Diablo
During the early 1960’s, PG&E promoted economic growth, and Norman Sutherland envisioned nuclear power supplying electricity for the California industrial boom. Sutherland told business leaders that PG&E typified the “dynamic growth west of the Great Divide,” and proclaimed California the “fastest-action market in the United States.” The company purchased ads in the trade magazines and encouraged industry to join the second gold rush in California. The magazine for ratepayers, Progress, promoted all electric homes. Other ads suggested electric appliances as the “perfect gift.” “One that goes on saving time – and work – year after year. You’ll find them in beautiful decorator colors.”
Although most people favored economic growth, not everyone supported the power plants PG&E planned to build. Massive opposition existed to the Bodega Bay Atomic Park. PG&E didn’t want to repeat that episode at other nuclear power plant sites, and looked for communities favorable to power plant development. Business and civic leaders in San Luis Obispo county, located midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, wanted industry to move into the community, and welcomed PG&E’s February 1963 announcement to build a nuclear power plant at the Nipomo Dunes. Oil companies already occupied the land next to the building site, and PG&E didn’t anticipate opposition_ from the conservationists.
However, the Nipomo Dunes had always been a special place for a number of people. It was the longest stretch of coastal sand dunes in the state. During the depression of the 1930’s, artists lived among the hills. People grew their own vegetables and dug for clams along the beach. The “Dunites” even had their own newspaper. Many county residents considered the dunes sacred. Walking alone among the hills and hidden lakes offered an opportunity to commune with nature. Friends of the dunes said the experience couldn’t be described and had to be experienced personally to be appreciated.
After learning about PG&E’s development plans, Kathy Jackson, founder of the Sierra Club’s local Santa Lucia Group, contacted other conservationists for help in keeping PG&E out of the dunes. She wanted the area to become a state park. Recognizing the need to stop potential opposition, PG&E representatives contacted Jackson and invited her to lunch.
Jackson remembered, “I found myself surrounded by five pleasant men who asked if I was Kathy Jackson who didn’t want a power plant built in the dunes. Ken Diercks was the public relations man, well spoken and had a good sense of humor. I agreed to talk to them out at the proposed site, since they had not been there before.” Jackson wanted to educate PG&E about the area’s natural value.
“They wore new clothes purchased from Penney’s for the three mile hike to the site,” Jackson explained. “By the time we got back, they were pooped.” PG&E, in turn, wanted to educate Kathy Jackson about nuclear power and invited her, and five other people of her choice to be their guest and fly to the new Humboldt Bay nuclear power plant and observe fuel loading. Jackson asked Sierra Club director Fred Eissler, but he refused the invitation thinking they’d be “snowed.”
“I’ll never forget the looks on the engineers’ faces,” Jackson remembered after visiting the Humboldt plant. “I realized it would take a good piece of my life to grasp the hazards of nuclear power. The safety engineer flew back with us on the plane. It was a sobering hour. He had six months training in air conditioning at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.”
“Those flying back with me gave good arguments,” Jackson continued. “I called Fred when I got back, ‘I have made a decision Fred, I’m not going to fight the plant on the basis of fission. I will oppose it on scenic values and scientific value. I’m going to start educating PG&E’ Fred responded, ‘Kathy, you have been snowed.”’
“I proceeded to educate them and develop a good relationship with Ken Diercks. The visit to the dunes was the beginning of their understanding of conservation. From then on there was a lot of communication, “Jackson explained.
PG&E representatives also met with county officials and business leaders to promote plant construction. As an added inducement, PG&E took “Friends of PG&E” on free trips to the Feather River. The Economic Development Commission, a businessman’s group funded primarily by PG&E, promoted county growth and pushed for the power plant.
Local Sierra Club member Kit Walling remembered, “PG&E’s spokesmen were suave and convincing.”
PG&E created its own task force to get the plant built, chaired by Ken Dierks. Barton Shackelford (who later became president) served as the chief civil engineer, and Hal Strube served as the coordinator of Atomic Information. Strube wooed the press . and boasted “PG&E has always set a premium on winning over the local editor. . . the Arroyo Grande Times Recorder and the San Luis Obispo Telegram Tribune have been easy pickings.”1
Sierra Club director Martin Litton remembered, “PG&E infiltrated everything and attended all types of conservation conferences. And there was never any talk of getting rid of the bastards.”
PG&E, wanting to keep tabs on local conservationists, asked L. Paul Baum, one of its engineers, to join the Sierra Club’s Santa Lucia Group and provided him a company car and reimbursed for all expenses. Baum said he reported votes taken at meetings, future plans of the group, and who said what.
The business community supported PG&E’s plans to build a nuclear power plant in their county, and resented the conservationists’ attempts to chase PG&E away. Jackson tried to quiet their anger by explaining she only wanted PG&E out of the dunes but to stay within the county. She hoped to bring PG&E and conservationists together and resolve conflict. To achieve that goal, she introduced PG&E representatives to Conservation Associates, in March, 1963. Conservationists Associates saw itself as a liaison between the business community and conservation organizations. Among its leaders was Doris Leonard, wife of Sierra Club director Richard Leonard. Doris Leonard arranged meetings between members of the Sierra Club Board of Directors and PG&E.
On May 4th, 1963, the Sierra Club Board of Directors discussed PG&E’s plans to build nuclear power plants along the California coast. Several directors, including Richard Leonard, didn’t want to oppose PG&E, believing it wasn’t the club’s responsibility. Eventually president Edgar Wayburn, and Conservation Chair Randal Dicky, agreed to meet with PG&E president Robert Gerdes to discuss the nuclear power plant planned for San Luis Obispo.
Wayburn remembered the meeting, “Robert Gerdes was a good conservationist, who had once been a member of the Sierra Club. I made a push to get them out of the dunes.” PG&E stated their willingness to review alternatives sites to the Dunes, but stipulated a final decision had to be made by 1965. Conservation Associates agreed to serve as liaison between the Sierra Club and PG&E during the review period.
The entire nuclear power issue and decision to work with PG&E generated controversy within the club. At the July 27th, 1963 Executive Committee meeting, directors discussed the club’s policy toward power plants along the coast for several hours. A motion passed opposing the Bodega Bay Atomic Park, but directed the club not to challenge the Public Utilities Commission issuance of a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity. George Marshall, who campaigned against the Bodega plant, voted against the motion because of its non-participation provision.
At a meeting of the full board September 7th, 1963, the directors approved a general policy stating, “the Sierra Club is opposed to the construction of power plants along ocean and natural lake shorelines of high recreation of scenic values.” Essentially the club created a policy to oppose the plant but developed no program to implement the policy and ensure that power plants weren’t built in scenic areas.
Many directors accepted the inevitability of growth and tried to accommodate it with the least destructive sacrifices. Hence the club had a willingness to work with PG&E and find an alternative to the dunes in San Luis Obispo County. Nature photographer Ansel Adams felt the club exhibited a new maturity by working with PG&E.
Executive Director David Brower refused to work with PG&E. According to his philosophy, “There is no way to save everything except to get over the addiction to growth. The alternative is to kick the fix, the growth fix.”
Will Siri became Sierra Club president in May 1964. Siri was a respected mountaineer and had participated in the first American expedition to the top of Mount Everest. Doris Leonard introduced him to Robert Gerdes, and Siri became the principal liaison between the club and PG&E in negotiations on alternatives to the Nipomo Dunes. At the January 9th, 1965 Executive Committee meeting, Siri announced plans to visit San Luis Obispo to view the various sites and speak at the Santa Lucia group’s annual banquet.
Although members of the Santa -Lucia Group walked the Dunes with Siri, none participated in evaluating the alternative site. Instead, Siri appointed Kathy Jackson coordinator of the one person Committee to Save the Nipomo Dunes, reporting directly to himself. Jackson’s appointment excluded those Sierra Club members most familiar with the county, from participating in site selections and negotiations with PG&E.
Nevertheless, Jackson was pleased with the appointment and took her job seriously. In a February 8th, 1965 letter to PG&E’s Ken Diercks, Jackson explained her commitment. “l have promised that l will be careful, that I will try to be shrewd, that I will pray for wisdom, that I will do anything requested by the Sierra Club president of the Board of Directors, and that I will be steadfast. However, I don’t see that acceptance of this appointment need change the way you and I work together.”
Part of Jackson’s responsibility was to stimulate rumors of possible construction sites and evaluate public reaction. At the same time she tried to keep the members of the Santa Lucia Group from learning details of the negotiations. Ironically, Jackson herself wasn’t privy to the actual site evaluations.
PG&E favored building a nuclear power plant in a canyon near the town of Avila. But its owner, Robert Marree, did not want to live next to a nuclear power plant and took PG&E on a tour of his property to look for another site. To the north, the point furthest from his home, lay Diablo Canyon. It appeared to be the ideal location. The small cove enabled engineers to design a cooling system with a natural separation between the intake and discharge pipes. No road existed near the plant, hence it presented no visual or esthetic problems. As an inducement to sell the property, PG&E guaranteed Marree a $20 million loan to develop his property near Avila. Marree accepted the offer and began his own development project in Avila.
The negotiations with Oliver Field, owner of the property north of Diablo Canyon, didn’t go as smoothly. Field wanted to pass the land to his grandchildren undisturbed and didn’t want to sell to PG&E. Field had access rights through Marree’s property which gave him legal standing in Marree’s negotiations with PG&E. Marree recognized the potential legal complication and filed a successful lawsuit that removed Field’s access rights. With Field out of the way, Marree sold the land and leased the access road to PG&E.
Although the property purchase was secure in 1965, PG&E didn’t announce its selection of Diablo Canyon as the site for a nuclear power plant. Site preparations began in September 1965 without fanfare or Sierra Club endorsement. The utility waited for an opportune moment to announce the new site.
Dorothy Varian, of Conservation Associates, recognized that there may be opposition within the Sierra Club to endorsing Diablo Canyon as a site for a nuclear power plant. “Martin Litton has the same feelings for Diablo Canyon as we do for the Dunes,” she warned.
Nevertheless, Conservation Associates wanted the Sierra Club to endorse the site. Doris Leonard wrote to Will Siri April 7th, 1966 and informed him it was time to bring the matter before the board, as his term of office was about to expire. “We want very much to sew [Diablo] up before you go out because it takes a new man so long to understand the problem.”
Richard Leonard drafted a resolution stating the Sierra Club considered Diablo Canyon a suitable alternative to the Nipomo Dunes for a nuclear power plant. “It will need the support of people like you and Ed and Dick who have been in the picture — and Kathy too, as your assistant, to put this across,” Doris Leonard explained. “We can move the plant off the Dimes by supporting Diablo Canyon.”
On May 6th, 1966, President Siri wrote to PG&E President Shermer Sibley thanking him for allowing participation in the site selection process and for “promoting a mutual atmosphere of cooperation that we hope may continue.”
The following day, at the Sierra Club Board of Directors meeting, after delivering an emotional farewell address, Siri proposed that the Sierra Club consider Diablo Canyon a satisfactory alternative site to the Nipomo Dunes for building a nuclear power plant. Nature photographer Ansel Adams seconded the motion. Kathy Jackson reported that the plant was to be built inside the canyon, which she described as a “treeless slot, not visible from the highway.” Neither Jackson nor Siri ever walked in Diablo Canyon.
Directors Leonard and Wayburn argued in favor of the motion, but did not admit to participating in the site selection process. Discussion lasted less than two hours. Executive Director Dave Brower urged the Board to postpone the decision until the directors had the opportunity to visit the site. There was still time to do so before PG&E needed a decision. However the Board did not heed his suggestion and voted in favor of building the power plant in Diablo Canyon. Fred Eissler cast the only dissenting vote. The only director familiar with the site, Martin Litton, was out of the country on business.
Sierra Club Bulletin editor Hugh Nash said later, “No one at the meeting had first-hand knowledge of the site; all though they were saving the Nipomo Dunes. I don’t want to call them stupid, exactly, but they weren’t very smart.” Even after the Sierra Club endorsement of Diablo Canyon, PG&E retained the right to develop the Dunes. After the vote, some of the directors traveled to San Luis Obispo to view Diablo Canyon for themselves. Nash went along. “What I saw that day convinced me that the board was guilty of ceding the finest stretch of California coastline to PG&E without even knowing what it was doing.” The area around Diablo Canyon was the last stretch of California coastline south of Humboldt county, unmarred by railroads, roads, or other man—made intrusions. The world’s largest oak trees grew in the canyon.
Abalone in the cove were so thick they were stacked atop one another. It was a unique combination of values that few people knew about. PG&E Pinkerton guards detained Nash for several hours because he illegally trespassed on the property. Upon his return home, Director Martin Litton heard about the Sierra Club vote and wrote an angry letter to PG&E’s President Shermer Sibley charging him with deliberately misrepresenting the facts on Diablo Canyon and fraudulently obtaining Sierra Club endorsement. Litton vowed to reverse the board’s decision.2
Sibley mailed copies of Litton’s letter to the Sierra Club directors. Ansel Adams, Will Siri, and Dick Leonard criticized Litton for writing PG&E. “I consider this the most unethical happening in my memory in the conduct of Sierra Club affairs,” Ansel Adams wrote. “I am truly amazed that your feelings submerged your reason to this extent.” Adams deemed it unthinkable that a director would condemn an action of the Sierra Club board to the “president of a large enterprise with whom we are trying to establish some basis of cooperation,” and demanded Litton apologize to Sibley.3
Litton surprised by his colleagues reaction, wrote to them, “It is a sad mistake to believe that PG&E’s ambition must be accommodated. We cannot have our cake and feed it to PG&E too. . . We had better make some hard decisions on relative values. We can go on smiling at PG&E and its ilk over drinks at the conference table, or on a wildflower walk — or we can face the cold facts that those that profit by destroying beauty are going to keep on destroying it until they are stopped, or until they run out of the last vestige of beauty to destroy. The way to stop ugliness is to stop preparing to accommodate it.”
PG&E maintained close contact with sympathetic directors, asking their opinion on matters, taking them out to dinner, and offering special aerial tours of the plant site. At one point PG&E flew Randal Dicky, Edgar Wayburn, and other directors to San Luis Obispo in a Lear jet, owned by Frank Sinatra and piloted by Danny Kaye.
Diablo became the focal point for a major club debate. Each side tried to amass additional allies. Directors challenged each others political values and personal integrity. “It was impossible psychologically for people to shift positions, even when new information came forward,” Will Siri remembered. “It was not too different from two nations going to war, each of them recognizing it’s a stupid war that will gain them nothing but losses, but still not being able to stop it.”
Former Sierra Club staff member Robert Golden added, “It was an unhappy experience, fraught with stress, paranoia, and an ominous presence. It was a fight for control and direction of the club.”
Incoming President George Marshall recognized the developing war and tried to understand the history behind its development. He was surprised to learn that Diablo Canyon had been recommended for a state park in a report conducted in 1955 by the National Park Service. Indeed that same study recommended that the Nipomo Dunes and Bodega Head be made state parks. Endorsing Diablo Canyon as a power plant site appeared to contradict Sierra Club policy. Marshall wrote to Will Siri May 28, 1966, and requested clarification on the matter. “I would like to know specifically on whose evaluation based on a study at the site of the canyon and the surrounding area, you and Kathy and the directors concluded that at least at this place no major scenic values would be destroyed.”
Marshall questioned Doris Leonard about the blind support given to PG&E. “The whole problem of where future power plants, whether atomic of other types, should be placed, would seem to require much greater consideration than just falling in line with the apparent program of PG&E and some of the major power companies.”4
He warned Kathy Jackson July 14th, 1966, “We must be careful not to be drawn into a position where one by one our basic resolution against power plants on scenic coastal areas is made ridiculous.”
But the precedent of working with industry was in motion, and the process became more important than protecting park sites from development. Ansel Adams viewed the endorsement as a positive step and explained in a July 1, 1966 letter to the Monterrey Herald, “The conservation movement is becoming more adult, more aware of the universal problems of society. We are developing cooperative relationships with PG&E.”
But by making such a decision, the Sierra Club capitulated to growth. Robert Golden reflected, “It seems strange we were doing PG&E’s work. We were furthering the cause of nuclear power.”
Director Fred Eissler worried that the Sierra Club’s support of Diablo Canyon made it difficult for people opposing nuclear power to fight PG&E. Eissler believed that the Sierra Club would have stopped construction at both Nipomo and Diablo Canyon.
“The Sierra Club was at the height of its success at the time of Diablo Canyon,” Eissler emphasized. “We had achieved great victories in stopping the damming of the Grand Canyon and securing passage of the Wilderness Act. If the club had taken a strong stand against the nuclear alternative, it was possible to have held up the entire nuclear program. And that is what they were afraid of. It was at that strategic moment the club backed out and became so twarted (?) in controversy that it ceased to be effective.”
Executive Director David Brower agreed the Diablo Canyon concession had been made too early. I remembered past mistakes made by the club when trying to find an alternative to an environmentally destructive project. The club endorsed damming Glen Canyon, without first viewing the site. “The thing that really hurt,” Brower remembered, “was when I first went down and looked at Glen Canyon and saw, at long last, what I had been willing to compromise before I looked at it. That was one of the bitterest lessons I ever had.” Many Senators wondered why the Sierra Club withdrew the opposition. They felt the entire Colorado River Project (a series of dams) could have been killed had the Sierra Club not withdrawn opposition to Glen Canyon. Brower recognized the danger of trying to combine wilderness protection with “reasonableness and compromise.”
“There is nothing you can do about the bigot, but you could try to harm or defeat the reasonable person,” Brower said. “The unborn have rights and environmental organizations are one of the few institutions concerned about this.” But other members of the board thought it unwise for the club to change its position on Diablo. The San Francisco Examiner ran a July 1, 1966 editorial condemning moves within the club to change the Diablo policy and said, the club, as spokesmen for the conservation movement, shouldn’t waffle on the issues. Martin Litton tried to change the Diablo endorsement at the September 1966 Board of Directors meeting. More Directors opposed construction, but not enough to reverse the club’s policy. As a next step Brower circulated a petition to place the matter on the ballot before the entire membership. This was the first time the membership challenged an action taken by the Board of Directors. The original wording asked members to choose one of the options:
(A) I desire the Sierra Club to urge that the Diablo Canyon region remain unaltered pending the outcome of comprehensive shoreline master planning conducted during the club’s proposed moratorium (Board Resolution 10, September 17-18, 1966) on siting of power plants at coastal locations of scenic-recreational worth.
(B) I favor the construction of power generating plants at the Diablo Canyon region, pursuant to Board Resolution 10 (September 17-18, 1966), since the Sierra Club’s proposed moratorium on coastal siting of power facilities pending the outcome of shoreline master planning should not apply to Diablo Canyon.
Several directors did not like the petition as written. Will Siri complained to one Sierra Club member, “In essence the original wording of the petition was cast in this form: I am for virtue/I am for sin. This ensured only one possible outcome for the vote. No one in the club is for power plants on the coast, which was the alternative choice offered.”5
The club’s bylaws required the Board to place the resolution on the ballot, but through parliamentary maneuvers, directors simply asked the membership to support or oppose the Diablo Resolution.
Should the following policy of the Sierra Club as established in May 1966 and September 1966 respectively be sustained?
The Sierra Club reaffirms its policy that the Nipomo (Oceano, Santa Maria) Dunes should be preserved, unimpaired, for scenic and recreational use under state management, and considers Diablo Canyon, San Luis Obispo County a satisfactory alternate site to the Nipomo Dunes for construction of a Pacific Gas and Electric Company generating facility; provided that (1) marine resources will not be adversely affected; (2) high—voltage transmission lines will not pass through Lopez Canyon located in the same county, anywhere north of parallel 35 degrees 15’N; and (3) air pollution and radiation will not exceed licensed limits. A moratorium of at least one year should be declared by the cognizant agencies on the selection of future sites for power plants and heavy industrial development pending surveys of scenic recreational resources along coastal areas and Great Lake shorelines. This resolution does not revoke the Board’s May 1966 action on Diablo Canyon.
The rewritten version upset writers of the original petition, and they requested the Sierra Club Legal Committee to reinstate the original wording. The Committee agreed the changes violated the bylaws, but did not succeed in reinstating the original wording.
Almost as an afterthought, the Sierra Club Board created a select committee to evaluate the economic merits of Diablo Canyon compared to the alternative sites. A second committee was charged with evaluating the ecological impact of building a power plant in Diablo Canyon. In addition, Siri commissioned his own study by Clare Hardham.
After accepting the assignment, Hardham wrote to Siri that although she had not visited the site, “I should state here that I don’t really care what happens to Diablo Canyon since PG&E has to have a site somewhere for its atomic energy plants and every place is going to have some that love it and spring to its defense.”
While the select committees conducted their research, each side educated the membership on their position. Sierra Club Bulletin editor, Hugh Nash, wanted to feature the vote in the February issue and allocated five pages per side. Siri and Adams promised to write an article defending the board’s action and Martin Litton agreed to write the article asking for a change in policy. Everyone agreed to Nash’s January 25th deadline.
Adams later wrote to Siri suggesting more points could be gained by their position by using only two pages of the Bulletin and not to magnify the issue.6 Nash felt compelled to reduce Litton’s space to two pages also.
In a memo to Directors Litton and Eissler, Nash wrote, “it might be possible to outmaneuver the bad guys while playing the game their way …. My plot is to cross them up by having an eight page issue,” thus magnifying Diablo, and speeding the production time.7
Siri’s counter-plot was to prevent the membership from receiving the Bulletin until after they had received their ballots, which had been mailed separately. While complaining he hadn’t the time to finish the article, Siri traveled to various parts of the county seeking endorsements for Diablo Canyon from the various club chapters. Nash, after making special arrangements with the printer, extended Siri’s deadline to January 30th. However by February 16th, Siri still had not submitted his arguments.
In desperation, Nash and Brower decided to print 750 copies of the Bulletin without Siri’s arguments, and send them to the chapter leaders. Printing the half· Bulletin proved to be a fatal error. Although it may have been justified, Brower’s wife Anne explained, its inevitable one-sided-ness gave an impression of unfairness that angered many members. Nash remembered club leaders had “blood in their eyes,” when they confronted him at the February 18th, 1967 Sierra Club Council meeting. Only after Nash explained the history of missed deadlines, did the chapter leaders ease up.
At the Board of Directors meeting later that day, the Economic Alternatives Committee and the Ecological Impact Committee presented their findings. The Economic Alternatives Committee, using PG&E’s own data, found other sites cheaper to develop than Diablo Canyon.
The Ecological Impact Committee, whose members included professors from the local college in San Luis Obispo and Bodega Bay veteran Joel Hedgepeth, concluded:
PG&E’s choice of Diablo Canyon Power site represents the failure of single purpose planning characteristic of the restricted outlook of many agencies such as the Army Corp of Engineers. Shoreline Preservation should be a priority. The Diablo Canyon area is remarkably worthy of preservation as a marine park and pastoral reserve — not alone for its separate attributes, but more specifically for the combination of values.
Nash recalled that many members of the Board literally appeared sick after hearing the report. A motion to change the Diablo policy was defeated by a two vote margin. Some of the directors were still upset with the printing of the half-Bulletin.
Director Richard Leonard congratulated Siri on the fortunate turn of events. “You will switched at least two votes to your side. . . by simply not getting your homework in on time. We have a bit of momentum now. Though we may lose the battle I think we may win the war. Can we stage a get-together in which to plan concerted action to force DRB [Brower] further to tip his hand?”8
The war intensified between the men who once worked closely together. Leonard taught Brower mountain climbing and two men served in the army together. Adams brought Brower into the Sierra Club. But Diablo became a debate on the organization structure and the role of the staff and its members, on which the friends didn’t agree. Brower wanted freedom of movement within the staff and the authority to take action when necessary without going through the board. Siri, Adams and Leonard didn’t want the staff to strike out on its own, and wanted to limit Brower’s authority.
Chapter newsletters accused Brower of attempting to take over the organization without carrying out the will of the membership. One member explained to Fred Eissler,
“In any organization with survival value, paid staff is for implementing the will of the membership, in this case reflected through its governing board, not dominating and predisposing it.”
George Marshall took Brower to task for continuing to try to change the Diablo policy. “We take the position that we can’t be against everything. We are determined to support PG&E in the Diablo Canyon enterprise because it makes conservation sense. Everyone would like the utopian condition he thinks. But we have to accept power plants and many other things.”9
Other active members didn’t want the fight to continue out of fear of destroying the club. Richard Sill, active against the Bodega Bay Atomic Park, didn’t think a fight over Diablo Canyon was worthwhile and warned Fred Eissler and Martin Litton by letter:
In the interest of a pure approach to conservation, you are setting the club on a road toward political ineffectiveness and are helping to initiate factionalism both within and without the club in the Board of Directors and the reliability of the club’s positions and you may as a side effect destroy the career of David Brower as an effective voice in conservation.
Your actions speak of unrealities. Power development near San Luis Obispo cannot be halted. No one can force PG&E to locate its plant in a place where it is ineffective or where the company will lose money. Such things are not within the realm of possible club actions. You can destroy confidence in the Board. You can produce schism in the ranks, you can encourage the staff in insurgence and insubordination which will lead — if continued — to the inevitable consequence of severe restrictions placed upon them. You can, in fact, achieve almost the exact opposite of everything I believe you seek.10
Dave Brower responded to Sill’s letter.
If I am lost it will be in part owing to any of my several failings, but it will be primarily because people who should have had the courage to stand up for policies the club believe in were fooled by one of the commonest ploys in the business: an organization that becomes effective is bound to make its opponents uncomfortable; the opponents seek ways, often by flattery, to split the organization and the hamstring whatever people are making the organization uncomfortably effective. This is happening now, and you have been drawn into it. I’m sorry.
It happened before [the Sierra Club didn’t opposed the Hetch Hetchy Dam in Yosemite]. People who wanted the City of San Francisco to feel comfortable prevailed on the Board, and forced such disruptors as Muir, Colby, Bacle, Parsons, and Le Conte to work outside the club in separate organizations that had to do until the vote of the membership put the club back on the track. It is not our obligation to make PG&E, or the AEC, or Arcata Redwoods, or the Bureau of Reclamation, or Consolidated Edison comfortable. It would be the easy way to operate the Sierra Club, and a sure way to fail. We have a different obligation. One of these is to ascertain the facts about scenic damage, and also about the alternatives. I would like to see you help the club do just this. You are doing the opposite.11
Sierra Club member Betty Hughs wrote to each member of the Board urging them to change their position on Diablo. To Ansel Adams she wrote, “How are we suddenly obligated to PG&E that we must fight their battles for them? What hold have they over some members of the Board that this kind of thing can generate so much bad feelings?”12
In an appeal to Will Siri she wrote:
I don’t think any of our Sierra Club directors should sell the club down the river by supporting commercial interests in the name of ‘reasonableness’. In my book, the club has no obligation to be ‘reasonable’ about our natural beauties except to fight for their preservation for as long as possible …. I frankly believe that anyone who isn’t interested in fighting right down the line of preservation has no place in the Sierra Club Board of Directors.
We’ve had some bad, bad decisions come out of the Board in the past where there were conflicts of interest and Board members were asked to be ‘reasonable’ and compromise with one thing in order to save something else. Well look at Glen Canyon, we were reasonable there, and what did it get us?
Experience seems to indicate that one can’t be reasonable with the commercial interests. They have no conscience, so we should not have to compromise with them. The Sierra Club is not in the business of compromise, as I see it. We are in the ‘business’ of preservation, if you can call it a ‘business’.13
Changing Sierra Club policy was not without precedent and the Club was under no obligation to keep its word to PG&E. Esther C. Litton pointed out in a letter to the editor of the San Francisco Chronicle previous times the Sierra Club changed its mind. “The Board of Directors has in the past adopted resolutions advocating the building of the Glen Canyon Dam, both of the proposed dams in the Grand Canyon, and the proposed development of Mineral King. On everyone of these positions, the Sierra Club has reversed itself, at great cost in energy ‘face.’ But it has eventually reached the only position consonant with its stated ideals, on every major issue except Diablo Canyon, the most recent one.”14
MEMBERSHIP VOTES ON DIABLO
Chapter leaders emphasized to their members that it wasn’t appropriate to challenge the board of directors and that voting against a power plant in Diablo Canyon was a vote for building a power plant in the dunes. When the full February Bulletin was printed, George Marshall removed Nash’s background story and replaced it with one of his own, emphasizing that a small group of people placed the measure on the ballot and that this was the first time the membership challenged the board.
Ansel Adams and Will Siri wrote in their background piece:
Diablo Canyon was prophetically named. It grew as a contentious issue out of the moving sands and rare flora of the Nipomo Dunes to sow doubt and dissension. . . [the vote] will reflect on the credibility of the Sierra Club as a reasonable organization …. the Sierra Club agreed not to oppose construction of the plant at the only practical alternative site, a narrow stretch of grass land on the coast near a small valley called Diablo Canyon . . . The impairment of the Canyon, we believe, must be balanced against the greater values of the Nipomo Dunes.
During the past year the club has been compelled to divert a wholly disproportionate part of its time and energy to this issue at the sacrifice of attention to more urgent conservation issues of national importance. . .
Your vote supporting the Club’s decision will help preserve the Nipomo Santa Maria Dunes. It will also preserve the respect and integrity of the Club and permit us to turn our full attention to the main stream of conservation problems.
We are an energy based society in which consumption of electricity doubles every decade — about 3 and one half times the population growth. Existing sites are fast approaching their capacity for expansion to meet present needs. Paradoxically, for conservationists, if air pollution is ever to be abated by gradual change from gasoline to electrically powered vehicles, projections of power needs would be woefully inadequate.
Martin Litton’s statement, signed by four other directors, refuted Siri’s arguments.
We reject as unfounded the contention that an either/or situation exists in which either the dunes or Diablo Canyon can be saved.
We believe Diablo Canyon and contiguous coast lands are no less worthy of protection than the Nipomo Dunes.
We believe the club is bound to lose battles but need not lose any for want of trying, or by abandonment of principle.
We believe the club attained national prominence and gained at least half its current members because it projected an image of resolute adherence to principle; if we now adopt the posture of an opportunistic trader, we must expect not only to lose support, but to lose respect also.
We believe the tactic of trading off one area in the hopes of ransoming another is likely to backfire, is apt to be divisive, and should be shunned as a matter of policy.
We believe that since today’s Board cannot commit tomorrow’s and today’s management of PG&E cannot commit tomorrow’s either, there is scant ground for optimism that the club’s ‘cooperation’ on Diablo Canyon and PG&E gratitude for it would ripen into a relationship of mutual trust enabling the club to influence PG&E’s decisions on such matters as the future siting of power plants and routing of power lines.
We believe it is in the nation’s interest, and the club’s best tradition, for us to do our utmost to save not only the Nipomo Dunes but the Diablo Canyon area as well.
Most members had already returned their ballots by the time the Bulletin reached them. Many wanted to change their votes after reading Litton’s arguments. However the membership sided with the majority of the board and soundly defeated the initiative 5,225 to 11,341. .
The split within the club over the Diablo issue continued to fester. Fred Eissler organized the Scenic Shoreline Preservation Conference to fight Diablo Canyon in hearings on the Certification of Public Convenience and Necessity before the Public Utilities Commission. President George Marshall did not allow anyone to participate in the hearings opposing Diablo in the name of the Sierra Club.
The power structure within the club changed in May 1967. Two new directors, sympathizing with Brower, replaced directors Nathan Clark and George Marshall. The new directors supported withdrawing Sierra Club endorsement of Diablo Canyon. But moves to change the policy angered directors who thought the membership vote should not be overturned. Many feared further discussion of Diablo threatened the club’s existence.
Edgar Wayburn took over the presidency. “My role was to keep the club together,” Wayburn recalled. “The multiple diverse sectors meant the club could not continue as the strong conservation source. The course of conservation was best served by not splitting. This issue or any single issue was not worth the breakup of the Sierra Club.”
Martin Litton worked on gathering votes within the Sierra Club Board to change the Diablo policy. By May 1968, Litton managed to get the majority of directors to agree privately to a resolution opposing Diablo Canyon’s construction. However when Litton attempted to bring the matter up for discussion at the director’s meeting, President Wayburn ruled him out of order. The topic wasn’t on the agenda. The Board voted to overrule the chair and Litton formally made the motion. However, Phil Berry, attending his first Board meeting, changed his vote to an abstention, and the Board lost the votes necessary to overrule the chair. Litton cou1dn’t introduce the motion to change the c1ub’s Diablo Canyon policy. Berry later apologized for his action and promised to opposed Diablo if given a second chance.
The majority of directors still opposed PG&E’s presence in Diablo Canyon, and on June 22nd, 1968, eight directors informed PG&E President Shermer Sibley of their intention to bring the Diablo matter before the Sierra Club Board in September. The letter specifically requested the utility to reschedule their development plans at Diablo Canyon and investigate means of using alternative sites, and reappraising “the deleterious effect” of continuous expansion of generating facilities upon the California environment:
We realize that the intense controversy in this matter can be difficult for you as for us. We can think of no utility that has planned more drastically for rapid growth and population than PG&E. This planning has demonstrated engineering, financial, and political genius. But you must be increasingly aware, as we are, of the ominous future to be expected as an outcome of such growth. We must trust that you share the conviction that preservation of the environment in California is of first importance. It is now time for long—range public necessity to take priority over immediate public convenience. We believe that California will prosper best in the long run, if we avoid irreversible acts destructive of the natural environment that makes our state the attractive place it is. We and our neighbors, your customers, believe it is well worth paying something extra, if necessary, to keep California the beautiful, livable place it has been.
After learning of the letter, Edgar Wayburn wrote to PG&E President Sibley explaining that the club had not yet changed the Diablo policy. Both sides knew that the September 1968 meeting would be historic and lobbied the membership to strengthen their position.
Aubrey Wendling, Chairman of the Sierra Club Council, outlined the position of the Chapter leaders, “It is the responsibility of all Board members regardless of their personal feelings, to abide by and support the decision of the members. As directors of the Sierra Club, they are obligated to divest themselves of directorship of they feel they cannot accept the majority decision.”
However, Elizabeth Barnett, of the Grand Canyon Chapter countered, “It is important to admit where we have been mistaken not only for our own guidelines, but for the benefit of other conservation organizations who look to us for assistance and accurate information, and in consideration of the public trust placed upon us. Although some will call this ‘inconsistency’, acceptance of responsibilities to change a position on the basis of new information will do more int he long run to confirm our credibility.”15
Ansel Adams maintained that revival of the Diablo Canyon protest would discredit the Sierra Club before the world as “an irresponsible organization, without moral or ethical principles essential to the understanding and execution of the great ecological and conservation solutions facing us at these times.”16 He advocated firing Brower and dissolving the office of executive director.
The September 14th and 15th meeting of the Board of Directors was emotionally packed. The Board defeated Adam’s motion 11 to 3. Adams, Siri, and Leonard cast the only votes against Brower. Over the objections of the Sierra Club Council, the Santa Lucia group in San Luis Obispo gained chapter status. It opposed development J at Diablo Canyon and wanted to- sever themselves from the pro development Los Padres Chapter. The directors worried about the power shift taking place during the meeting.
President Edgar Wayburn introduced the subject of Diablo Canyon and outlined the history of the controversy. Martin Litton proposed a long resolution with numerous whereases, explaining the Sierra Club policy on preservation of scenic resources and noting that the provisions stipulating marine protection in the original endorsement of Diablo Canyon, could not be met.
Be it therefore resolved that the Board of Directors of the Sierra Club, as a matter of policy and general principle, opposed the use, for industrial purposes, including the native, pristine, scenic, pastoral, agricultural, rural or otherwise industrially unoccupied portions of the coasts of shores of the United States, without exception, including the shores of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and their bays and estuaries, the Gulf of Mexico, and interior rivers and lakes.
Be it further resolved, that the Board of Directors of the Sierra Club specifically opposed construction of any proposed and/or projected electrical power plant at, in, or near Diablo Canyon in the County of San Luis Obispo, California, and so notifies all persons and all agencies, public and private; and that the Board of Directors of the Sierra Club will take all lawful means to save, conserve, and restore the integrity of the San Luis Range.
Members of the audience spoke first, led by former President George Marshall. Representatives from eleven chapters spoke against Litton’s resolution, as did numerous individuals. Two chapter representatives spoke in favor of the motion, stating that the club should never find itself in the position of bargaining away a scenic area. · Each of the directors spoke to the resolution. Aldo Leopold told the membership, “Your Board of Directors are selected by the membership to act accordingly to our own conscience …. I know something about the question of levels of nuclear radiation. And what I know most is that we don’t know very much. And that the thing that is happening primarily in the environment is that we allow things to happen to it – not being able to forecast what the ecological results were going to be and then we find a short time later that the results are much different than we expected. They usually turn out to be worse than expected.”
“. . . the good reputation of the club is now really at stake in the public mind,” Ansel Adams responded. “But that is not the only thing. As I have grown up in the club, I may have become a little more hard boiled, but I know that many of our battles were unnecessarily harsh, were unreasonable, and in the end we lost. In our particular relationship with this public utility corporation they heeded our request and left the Nipomo Dunes and established a basis of cooperation. And this basis of cooperation is to me one of the great forward steps in conservation history.”
A statement written by nature photographer Eliot Porter was read next:
Many among us believe that only by compromise and accommodation can the club retain its influential position with the government and the people. They believe that only through stubborn consistency can the club maintain public respect for its actions and a fair image of the land. I say that compromise and accommodation with industry and private interests as well with bureaucratic agencies will destroy the influence and standing of the club. I say consistency is meaningful only in terms of action taken.
Consistency with a wrong or stupid decision is worse, and works more harm to fair image of the club, than the wrong or stupid action worked in the first place. Consistency with right is the highest justice and the greatest wisdom, but one has to be sure of the right.
There is no compromise between an organization like the Sierra Club concerned with the public welfare and a corporation concerned first, last and always with material gain. Each compromise on our part regarding any conservation matter is bound to be a loss – a retraction of our boundaries, a narrowing of our defense perimeter and degrading of our values. Each piece of environment is lost for ever …. We must take our stand and not give in. We must, if possible, advance and not retreat.
Will Siri responded, “If the resolution is passed we are saying to you, the members, and the Board will be saying to me as a member, that if we don’t like your opinion we are going to ignore it. This is not a form of democratic action in any civilized country.”
Edgar Wayburn spoke about his difficulty appearing before Congressional Committees after the Sierra Club had changed its mind on environmental issues. “It seems to me that the Directors might well consider their convictions and what the Sierra Club has accomplished. The Diablo issue has detracted from our effectiveness. It will detract from our ability to act on the many other things we are trying to do.”
Martin Litton countered, “We are trying to move on to a new situation and that is why there are so many whereases. We all want to move ahead. I sat here listening with what you might call wry amusement although I wasn’t amused at the implications that we are not doing anything on the other issue because of the Diablo thing.”
Phil Berry spoke last:
I can vote for this motion and I can do so in clear conscience. I can do it because I think the principle involved in the original resolution with regard to Diablo was wrong. I cannot state it any more eloquently than Eliot Porter did when he said the Sierra Club should never become party to a convention which lessons wilderness. In conscience, I could vote for the motion on that ground alone. However, as a lawyer I feel bound by the majority vote of the membership unless there has been a substantial change in the conditions. In material that has been passed to me and to all members of the Board in very recent days there has been sufficient justification, I think for the claim that there has been a change in conditions. Primarily this relates to the thermal pollution problem. First of all, there has been a growing awareness of this problem in the scientific journals, journals of social comment and in the Congress of the United States — all with the last few months. The documents that were passed to the Board in recent days bear no dates earlier than August 1968. . . So I feel as a matter of principle and conscience I can vote for this motion. I will vote for it if it comes as a vote. However, I propose a substitute motion which may perhaps give all of us room to make a new position on this to those of you who feel there is violence done by overruling a vote of the membership — if you don’t feel there is a change of conditions, I think there would be something in it for you too.
Berry then moved, “The Sierra Club Board of Directors regretfully acknowledges that it made a major mistake of principle and policy attempting to bargain away an area of unique scenic beauty in its prior resolutions in regard to Diablo Canyon and environs. However, in light of the Club history of this issue it does not actively oppose the construction underway at that site.”
No one seconded Berry’s motion, and discussion continued on Litton’s motion. Berry proposed a second substitute motion and the chairman called a recess. After reconvening, the directors offered various suggestions for rewording. Berry explained that his substitute motion did not overrule the vote of the membership. Martin Litton suggested another rewording and the directors voted on the motion. As recorded in the minutes the directors approved the following resolution:
The Sierra Club Board of Directors regretfully acknowledges its belief that it made a mistake of principle and policy in attempting to bargain away a place of unique scenic beauty in its prior resolution in regard to Diablo Canyon and environs.
The Sierra Club Board of Directors as a matter of policy and general principle, opposes use for industrial purposes of electric power generation, of wild natural, native, pristine, scenic, of pastoral portions of coasts of shores of the Pacific, Atlantic, and Arctic oceans or the Gulf of Mexico, and there bays and estuaries and inland waters.
The motion passed 9 to 5, with Adams, Leonard, Sill, Siri, and Wayburn voting against it. After the vote, questions remained as to the meaning of the vote. Barry stated his belief that the motion did not overrule the membership resolution. Wayburn responded, “Oh Phil, of course it does.”
Ansel Adams commented, “I think this is the most fatal day in the club’s history.”
The following day, Berry, serving in his capacity of Secretary of the Board wrote to PG&E president Shermer Sibley advising him of the vote:
This is to advise you of action of the Sierra Club Board of Directors taken on September 15, 1968 with respect to Diablo Canyon. Not voting upon a proposed resolution before it which would have changed club policy to position of active opposition to your company’s plans for development at Diablo Canyon, the Board instead passed by majority vote a substitute resolution commenting upon its own earlier stand. The Board declared that it regretfully acknowledges its belief that it made a mistake in principle and policy in attempting to bargain away a place of unique scenic beauty in its prior resolutions respecting Diablo Canyon and environs.
The substitute motion, made by the writer, was explained in advance of the vote as not overruling our membership referendum of the subject. This same interpretation was given the resolution by the majority of those voting for it immediately after the vote.
In my opinion the new resolution does not change the existing club stand with respect to a particular site.
Richard Leonard, one of the directors voting against the resolution, wrote to all honorary leaders of the Sierra Club explaining that the newly elected Board attempted to reverse the membership vote on Diablo Canyon by “confessing the ‘mistakes’ of several previous Boards of Directors and objected to any power plant construction in the pastoral area of any coastal area in the United States. . . Phil Berry has taken exceptionally fine steps to try to unite the Sierra Club, and minimize the harm that would certainly come form a reversal in policy …. the secretary delivered to the President of PG&E a letter stating, in essence, that the Board of Directors of the Sierra Club had not reversed the policy.”17
Ed Wayburn wired to all chapter officers, “Club leaders keep foremost in your minds all the great goals and purposes of which we have worked so long. Our achievements have never been greater. Our dissolution over Diablo Canyon or any other single issue or decision can make a difference a hundred years from now.”18
After learning about Berry’s letter, the directors who voted for the resolution demanded a revocation of the statement. The meaning of the original motion was to be clarified at the October Board of Directors meeting, however the full board adjourned before the matter came up. A meeting of the Executive Committee continued composed of Berry, and three directors who voted against Litton’s motion. The directors voted to sustain Berry’s interpretation of the Diablo resolution as stated in his letter to PG&E. Pat Goldsworthy, maker of the clarifying motion, said it wasn’t recorded in the minutes as he made it. Nevertheless, the Sierra Club was once again on record supporting the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.
The Executive Committee’s clarification vote stood until the next meeting of the Board of Directors. Litton planned to introduce a new resolution clearly opposing construction of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. But at the December meeting, Berry introduced a substitute motion, approved by the board, to place the matter before the membership a second time.
The Spring 1968 election was perhaps the most controversial election in the club’s history. Two different slates competed for positions on the Board of Directors. Brower took a leave of absence as Executive Director, declared his own candidacy, and organized the Active Bold Conservationists slate. Those supporting nuclear power at Diablo Canyon and restricting staff autonomy, organized Companions of the Trail. The slates wanted control of the club. Many thought continued discussion of Diablo threatened the club’s existence. Edgar Wayburn, the only independent candidate, believed, “Our dissolution over Diablo Canyon or any other single issue can make a difference a hundred years from now.”
In April 1969 the Sierra Club members voted 20,000 to 30,000 in favor of building a power plant at Diablo Canyon. Or as many members say it, to support their leaders against a rebellious element. The majority rejected Brower and the slate of directors organized behind him. The new Board of Directors accepted Brower’s resignation at the May 1969 meeting. In his farewell address, Brower bid, “Good luck to the survivors of an unhappy war, and a change of heart too,” and left to organize Friends of the Earth.
Hugh Nash reflected about the turn of events and the people who worked so hard to support PG&E. “I’m not suggesting that men of this kind would be likely to do anything so crass as to accept an outright bribe or worry unduly about the ups and downs of the PG&E stock they might own, but it is certainly conceivable that they were seduced by business and social contacts who’s hospitality they had accepted and whose good will they coveted.”
Anne Brower said the group didn’t want to be labeled “flower smelling kooks.” The directors liked their opinion sought. It added prestige to the Sierra Club and to themselves. But in making the alliance, the conservationists lost sight of fundamental preservation values. The following year Doris Leonard accepted a position on the PG&E Board of Directors. Fourteen years later, in 1983, 71 year old David Brower won election to the Sierra Club Board of Directors. This time Ansel Adams, and Richard Leonard, supported his candidacy. Adams and Leonard remained pronuclear, but recognized the need to heel past wounds.
PG&E BUILDS DIABLO CANYON
While the Sierra Club argued over Diablo, the various public agencies held hearings to issue the permits PG&E needed to build the plant. Fred Eissler formed the scenic Shoreline Preservation Conference to carry out the intervention. During the hearings, PG&E’s Ken Diercks sent summaries of Eissler’s testimony to Will Siri and requested suggestions for countering the testimony.
Local rancher Ian McMilian remembered, “In the early days the only way to actively oppose Diablo was to become an intervenor.” Intervenors are party to the proceedings and have the right to cross-examine witnesses and to subpoena documents, and to raise specific issues of contention. U.
“Intervention was lonely at the time,” McMi1lian continued. “To testify against the plant was heresy. Opposing the plant was the equivalent of being called a Communist. ’Everyone at the hearings was against us. People thought Diablo would lower taxes and that they would get a break on electricity purchases.
“My main concern was that the thing was wrong and should have been stopped regardless of radiation. The issue was urbanization — calling for a doubling of electricity consumption every ten years. The project was to produce need. We didn’t need it in San Louis Obispo.
“The whole procedure was new to me. We were inexperienced. The pro side was well organized and talked about economics and tax base.”
At the Public Utilities Commission hearings, testified that growth in electricity demand would increase 6 percent a year. Bakersfield needed an additional 1300 megawatts of capacity by 1972 and Fresno needed 800 megawatts. The engineers maintained that Diablo Canyon could produce economical electricity when operated at 90 percent capacity.
The Public Utilities Commission accepted arguments and issued a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity on November 7th, 1967, stating in part:
The evidence has clearly established the need for a power plant by the year 1972. From the extensive and often eloquent testimony of the conservationists we recognize that the Diablo Canyon site is one of unusual natural beauty. We also recognize from the testimony of the engineers and other expert consultants that the site posses that rare combination of physical and geographical features which makes it a suitable location for a major nuclear power plant … After weighing these factors we find that the public interest requires the use of the Diablo Canyon site by the applicant for a major nuclear power plant site, despite the impact it will have on the environment.
The Scenic Shoreline Preservation Conference petitioned for rehearing, but the Commissioners voted 4-1 against it. William Bennett voted for rehearing and argued, “PG&E demonstrated planning which is cold in concept and ruthless in application as far as nature is concerned.”
SEISMIC STUDIES AT DIABLO
PG&E’s consulting geologists recognized the need for extensive geologic studies around Diablo Canyon. On June 25, 1966, M. Micheli issued a report recommending underwater geologic mapping in the vicinity of the coastline.19 Consulting geologist Mariave agreed and wrote to PG&E’s engineer, Fert Mautz, reintegrating the desirability of an underwater geologic study. 20
However the various geologists working on the project had a different interpretation on the area’s geology. Dr. Stewart Smith, supervising geologist explained there was never a question of earthquakes at the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant site because earthquakes in the area were accepted as “inevitable.” The question was how violent the quakes would be, how close to the plant site, and what ground movement was expected. California is laced with earthquake fault lines, Smith continued. “Dr. Beinhoiff and I felt the offshore area of California was also laced with earthquake fault lines, although these fault lines were generally not charted. As a way of showing our uncertainty about the site, we assumed there would be an earthquake directly beneath the plant site. This information was taken into consideration when designing the structure of the p1ant.” 21
Structural engineers believe it impossible to build a safe nuclear power plant atop an earthquake fault, and questioned Smith’s assumptions.
AVOIDING THE FACTS
Although the United States Geological Survey was generally satisfied with the extent of the geologic studies conducted by PG&E, USGS supervising geologist Dr. Henry Coulter also suggested the need for off-shore soundings at a March 21, 1967 meeting with PG& E. He mentioned that a fault laying directly beneath the containment building might be raised as an issue of contention during the construction permit hearings. The Bodega Bay Atomic Park was stopped by a fault beneath the plant. To avoid repeating this kind of episode, Coulter suggested moving the containment to another location.22,23
A month later, at an April 20th-21st, 1967 meeting, attended by representatives of the USGS, the AEC, PG&E, and Westinghouse, the project managers decided not to move the containment building off the fault because it would probably lie on similar faults in the new location. PG&E consultant Dr. Richard Jahns decided to forgo further trenching “at risk of uncovering geologic structure which could lead to additional speculation and possible delay of the project.” He decided not to trace another fault to establish its exact location in relation to the containment building because “further information of this type would only complicate the hearings.”24 The fault was later found to be inactive, but illustrated the regulatory group’s attitude toward seismic investigations.
Without conducting exhaustive studies, the group assumed a through state-of-the-art geologic investigation had been completed at Diablo Canyon. That assumption, however, proved mistaken. In 1965, two years before the meeting, the Department of Interior opened the San Luis Obispo coast to oil leasing, and numerous oil companies, surveyed the area looking for oil. Earthquake faults are often discovered during oil exploration, because oil is found in earthquake faults. In fact oil companies look for earthquake faults when looking for oil. Although the studies had not been published, the oil companies could have been approached for their data. The USGS frequently consulted oil companies when conducting geologic investigations.
Had the oil companies been questioned, or had PG&E conducted off-shore studies, it is likely the interveners would have succeeded in delaying construction hearings and possibly stopped construction. “It has always been our contention,” Fred Eissler remembered, “that PG&E knew about the off-shore fault from the beginning, and kept it quiet as the plant was being built.”
Two weeks after the USGS, the AEC, and PG&E decided not to conduct off-shore studies, the Assistant Secretary of the Interior requested the American Association of Petroleum Geologists to prepare a report on petroleum reserves in the United States. It was the most extensive study of its kind ever undertaken and included off-shore studies of Diablo Canyon and could provide valuable information needed by the Atomic Energy Commission and PG&E. Several members of the USGS served on the coordinating committee for the study, including scientists from the Menlo Park Office, which was
also responsible for studying Diablo Canyon. PG&E consultant Richard Jahns was a member of the Association of Petroleum Geologists. Neither PG&E nor the USGS attempted to utilize the information generated by this study.
When construction permit hearings began before the AEC’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, on February 20th, 1968, PG&E testified Diablo Canyon was an ideal location for a nuclear power plant because of the area’s geologic stability. The Scenic Shoreline Preservation Conference, suspected faulting and requested additional studies, but Eissler didn’t know about the Petroleum Geologists study didn’t suggest consulting it.
“We were constantly asking to look offshore,” Fred Eissler reminisced. “We knew earthquake faults stopped other plants. We felt there was a big earthquake threat that these people didn’t want to look at. We raised the possibility of a hypothetical earthquake that turned out to be the potential of the Hosgri — two miles offshore with a 7.5 magnitude.
“We were under the impression that we’d have some kind of chance to present our case,” Eissler continued. “As it turned out, the AEC locked step with PG& E. They held us off on consideration of certain issues until decision points had been passed. Then it was impossible to reverse the process.”
Ian McMillian remembered, “We were alone and had to do everything ourselves. I was concerned about sabotage. Discussion of sabotage and seismicity weren’t allowed.”
The hearings lasted only two days and the Board issued a construction permit April 23rd, 1968. Unlike Bodega, there was not strong community and political pressure to force the USGS to conduct a more through seismic studies. One USGS geologist admitted that the Survey never did extensive siting work for the AEC unless there was political pressure and extra funding.
On January 13th and 14th, 1970, the ASLB held hearings on issuance of a construction permit for Unit Two. The Scenic Shoreline Preservation Conference did not participate. But on April 5th, 1970, the Scenic Shoreline Preservation Conference requested additional hearings to present testimony from Ralph Vrana, a geology instructor from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, on faulting off-shore from Diablo Canyon. Using computer generated maps, Vrana pointed out earthquake epicenter alignment in a northeast-southwest direction, suggesting the possibility of a fault.
The AEC commissioned the USGS to investigate Vrana’s charges. Holly Wagner, utilizing USGS data compiled in 1968, but never published, produced an administrative report showing the area contained “faulted and disturbed strata” in a northwestern-southeast direction.25 The surface materials didn’t appear disturbed (which would indicate an active fault.)
Unknown to Wagner, a 90 mile active earthquake fault had already been mapped in February 1969 by geologists where he found the faulted and disturbed strata. Ernest Hoskins and John R. Griffiths, working for the Shell Oil Company, compiled old oil company data and mapped the earthquake fault as its contribution to the Petroleum Geologists study. Editors of the report received the manuscript on May 4th, 1970. Holly Wagner completed his administrative report in May 1970. Without examining the Hoskins-Griffiths study, the USGS determined faulting didn’t exist off-shore from Diablo Canyon. The USGS didn’t determine from what source the earthquake epicenters located by Vrana, occurred. Because the USGS coordinated the American Association of Petroleum Geologists Survey, it was either sloppiness or purposeful oversight that neither PG&E nor the USGS questioned the geologists assigned to study the San Luis Obispo County coast.
The Atomic Safety and Licensing Board held hearings August 9th, 1970 to listen to the USGS response to Vrana’s evidence of off-shore faulting. Believing no fault existed, the Board issued a construction permit for Unit II December 9th, 1970. A month later the American Association of Petroleum Geologists published “Future Petroleum Provinces of the United States- Their Geology and Potential” 26 containing the Hosgins and Griffiths article which described an earthquake fault offshore from Diablo Canyon. Not only did it describe the petroleum reserves in the United States, it provided a complete compendium of the structure and sedimentary basins in the United States. PG6cE still claims it didn’t realized the study had been published.
Holly Wagner read the Hoskins-Griffiths article in 1971 and notified the Atomic Energy Commission about the fault described in the article. Although the AEC didn’t notify the intervenors about the discovery, it ordered Wagner to conduct further investigations on the fault, but did not order PG&E to suspend construction while Wagner assessed the fault’s potential.
Henry Coulter said the USGS submitted several different reports about the Hosgri fault (named by Wagner after Hoskins and Griffiths) to the AEC. “The initial reaction was that this did not materially change the seismic threat to the site,” he explained. The AEC passed the reports onto PG&E. denies ever seeing them. Richard Jahns, the head geology consultant to also learned about the Hosgri in 1971. “I ran across it while reviewing the literature,” he explained. Although he still worked for the utility doing seismic consultant work at Point Arena and Davenport, he chose not to tell his client about the fault discovered off—shore from Diablo Canyon.
None of the AEC staff who worked on Diablo admit to knowledge of the Hosgri fault. Tom Cardone, the only AEC staff member at the time with an earth sciences background said, “Staff shortages made it difficult to review all USGS reports. There “may have been oversights.”
The AEC was under no obligation to inform the ASLB of changes in seismic knowledge about Diablo Canyon. Staff member Bob Jackson explained, “There was an evolution of regulations. The same people reviewing the sites were developing regulations based on their view of the sites they looked at.”
PG&E still maintains it didn’t learn of the Hosgri until late 1972, when consultant Doug Hamilton (who worked with Richard Jahns) wrote a report to PG&E. This information was incorporated into the 13 volume Final Safety and Analysis for Diablo Canyon.
The Scenic Shoreline Preservation Conference, still unaware of the Hosgri, again attempted to require offshore seismic studies during Environmental Impact hearings April 30, 1973, arguing, “Mapping of the submarine geology in the area from Diablo Canyon, in fact, is so deficient that a distinct major fault could exist.” The intervenors wanted to evaluate the environmental impact of a nuclear accident triggered by an earthquake.
Both PG&E and the AEC opposed the introduction of seismic issues during the environmental impact hearings. said there was no pertinent new evidence. (PG&E, meanwhile, had knowledge of the Hosgri earthquake fault, but chose not to inform the ASLB.) The AEC staff recommended waiting until the operating license phase of the hearings before evaluating the plant’s seismic design.
Bruce Sharpe, attorney for the Scenic Shoreline Preservation Conference responded, “That attitude of wait until the Operating License Hearings’ is what I deem totally reckless, making a prior judgement that the thing is going to be licensed as is. lf that’s the case, then the environmental hearings are meaningless anyway.”
The ASLB sided with the AEC staff and on June 18th, 1973, ruled testimony concerning geology, seismology, or seismic design could not be presented during public testimony on the environmental impact hearings for Unit II.
The following month, PG&E submitted its 13 volume Final Safety and Analysis Report (FSAR) for Diablo Canyon, and described an off—shore earthquake fault in a two paragraph statement. Within a month, the AEC requested that PG&E demonstrate the plant’s ability to shutdown safely in the event of an earthquake; however construction of the plant continued.
PG&E didn’t deliver a copy of the FSAR to the Scenic Shoreline Preservation Conference for three months. Before reading the FSAR, the intervenors learned about the discovery of the Hosgri earthquake fault from a USGS scientist who told Cal Poly students about it during a field trip. The Los Angeles Times reported the fault’s existence in a front page story. A few weeks later, Bruce Sharpe committed suicide.
Despite the unresolved seismic problems, PG&E applied for an operating license September 28th, 1973. New people joined the intervention; including the anti-war group Mothers for Peace. “We didn’t understand the rules and acted as our own attorneys,” Sandy Silver recalled. “After we filed our petition, the AEC wrote back, ’Though inartful, we feel the petition merits further study’ The one issue that allowed us to intervene ~ was the lack of an evacuation plan — that was in October 1973 and we still have no evacuation plan.
“At the time we were quite naive. We thought we could point out problems with nuclear power and tell them they were wrong. As we were in it just a couple of months, we realized these people are in the business to license plants, and we were their token intervenors. They were overjoyed to have us because they could point out ‘look the public is involved.’ The whole proceeding was a farce. lt didn’t take long to learn that.”
The Mothers attempted to get a stop work order on Diablo construction until the magnitude of the Hosgri had been assessed. responded with a publicity campaign on the need for Diablo Canyon. The ASLB refused to issue the order, and construction continued.
In January 1975, the USGS issued a report on the magnitude of the Hosgri earthquake fault. The fault lay 2 ½ miles off—shore and was capable of causing a 7.5 magnitude earthquake with a peak ground acceleration of 1.15 g. The Hosgri was possibly the source of the 1927 Lompoc quake, which registered 7.3 on the Reichter Scale. Some geologists believed it was connected to the San Simion, Big Sur, and San Gregorio faults, and was actually 400 miles long.
The USGS report alarmed the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the newly created agency that took over the regulatory responsibilities of the old Atomic Energy Commission. Associate Director of Reactor Licensing, Richard DeYoung told his colleagues, “Some increase in capability is possible from design changes that might be
undertaken, but changes sufficient to bring the system up to .6-.7 g capability are impractical. The staff is faced with a horrendous backfit decision. The decision will likely be used on both mechanical and policy considerations.
“The basic problem that will exist and the basic decisions that will need to be made are known at this time,” DeYoung continued. “The policy decisions will be influenced by technical facts and practicalities involved.”27 Some method had to be found to license the plant without massive structural re-engineering. The Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS) meeting was scheduled the following week to evaluate the implications of the USGS study. The group of appointed scientists made licensing recommendations to the NRC. DeYoung felt confident the ACRS could be convinced to approve the plant’s safety if provided a complete analysis, but he explained in the memo, “no such analysis is available.”28
As an alternative, DeYoung thought the USGS could be persuaded to alter its findings on the magnitude of the Hosgri. If the USGS reduced the faults magnitude, Diablo could be proved seismically safe. “Unless specific guidance, support and direction is provided promptly by upper management levels at the NRC and USGS to the working levels of the two organizations,” DeYoung wrote, “positions that do not necessarily reflect the judgment of upper-level management will be formulated and documented to the extent that later modifications will be difficu1t.”29 To fulfill that need, NRC director Harold Denton held discussions with his counterparts at the USGS to outline new methods of evaluating the Hosgri earthquake fault.
The NRC provided the USGS with “new information” that the 1927 Lompoc quake occurred on a “transverse fault” and not on the Hosgri. By accepting the transverse fault’s existence, the USGS could conclude in good conscience that ground motion along the Hosgri would not exceed .5 g. (Whether or not the premise was correct was another issue.) Another possible approach was to reduce the length of the Hosgri to less than 90 miles. Despite the NRC pressure, the USGS refused to reduce the Hosgri’s magnitude. Most geologists couldn’t accept the NRC’s analytical methods.
COMMUNITY REACTION TO THE HOSGRI
Disclosure of the Hosgri earthquake fault distressed residents living in San Luis Obispo. The Mothers for Peace tried to persuade the County Board of Supervisors to hold an educational forum on nuclear power. When this failed, the Mothers organized a debate at the Cal Poly gymnasium.
“The coming out party for the anti-nuclear movement was a public forum featuring John Gofman and Edward Teller on the same stage in October 1975,” Sandy Silver remembered, “It was the largest gathering ever held in the college gymnasium, outdrawing all the basketball games.”
John Gofman opened the session saying, “There is no way you can deny that radiation is a killer.” Employed more than a decade ago by the Atomic Energy Commission to refute a study correlating cancer with radiation exposure, Gofman found the situation worse than indicated.
“Edward Teller, the father of the H-bomb, was emotional and non-factual,” Mothers for Peace member Jane Swanson remembered. “He told us, ‘To prevent hunger in the third world, we need nuclear power today.’ But he kept coming back to Murphy’s Third Law, which says, ‘if anything can go wrong, it will. However since they’re built above the ground, let’s run them.’
“The audience reaction was mixed,” Swanson continued. “People heard what they wanted to hear. Some people said, ‘This man is a Nobel Laureate. And he has a thick accent, so he must know a lot. People were a lot more naive then they are now.”
PG&E contractors, alarmed about the growing dissension in the community against Diablo, tried to rally their employees into supporting the plant. J.R. Bell, supervisor for the M.W. Kellog Company, circulated a memo threatening to fire any worker not having a “We Need Diablo Canyon,” bumper sticker on his car. Welders reporting bad welds to their supervisors were threatened with firing.30
The publicity generated by the nuclear issue worried the NRC staff. The NRC wanted to license the plant, but the USGS refusal to reduce the Hosgri’s magnitude, made this difficult. The NRC staff couldn’t prove the structural integrity of the plant as long as the USGS said the Hosgri was capable of producing an earthquake with the force of 1.15 g. Time was running out and the NRC staff had to make a licensing recommendation to the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board.
Richard DeYoung explained the problem to the NRC directors in a November 1975 briefing.31 The structural integrity for Diablo “can be shown to be good for 0.5 g (but no more) without extensive modifications and significant analysis work.”
As an alternative, the NRC staff tried to show that an earthquake on the site would not produce ground accelerations exceeding .5 g, despite the USGS contention. that the fault could produce a peak ground acceleration of 1.15 g. DeYoung explained to the directors, “We are trying to build the best case for ourselves, the USGS, the hearing board, the Commission and the courts. lf the USGS and our people accept the 0.5 g value then we can issue an operating license and win in these areas. However, [’s] case may not be good enough. There is a better than even chance that USGS will, once again, refuse to accept it either and probably could not win this case if we tried to accept the 0.5 g value. It would be the most severe (expensive) penalty the Commission has ever imposed on an applicant.”32
Unless new information was found, the ASLB would have to make a decision unfavorable to PG&E. To protect Diablo, the NRC staff asked PG&E new questions.33 The Mothers for Peace could prove Diablo wasn’t safe, so the NRC sought information to help PG&E strengthen its case. The Commission staff didn’t offer the same privilege to the Scenic Shoreline Preservation Conference seven years earlier.
Prompted by the NRC’s questions, PG&E tried to prove the Hosgri not capable of producing a 7.5 magnitude quake at the plant site. Consulting structural engineer John Blume used a methodology called Sam III to calculate peak ground accelerations at the site. Blume’s method utilized soil characteristics under the plant and distance from the epicenter. However other scientists couldn’t duplicate Blume’s findings and the NRC requested more information on how Blume devised his method.
The NRC questions delayed the operating license hearings and enabled the staff to avoid giving a negative recommendation to the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board. On November 14th, 1975, the NRC notified all parties about a new licensing schedule and explained, “The changes in the schedule was necessitated by delays in your [*s] submittal of required geology and seismological information.”34 The NRC staff recognized that the various questions would be perceived as “a convent way for us to avoid a decision or to justify a delay. They are. However, we are honestly disappointed with PG&E’s response in these areas.”35
By making this decision, the NRC lost its impartiality. Rather than evaluating the merits of the situation and making a recommendation to the Licensing Board, the staff helped build its case. Had hearings been held when scheduled, Diablo could not be proved safe.
Although PG&E could not answer the NRC’s questions on seismic design, it applied for a license to bring nuclear fuel on site. Storing the fuel at Westinghouse, the utility argued, cost too much money. Sandy Silver remembered, “We said, wait a minute, how do you even know you’re going to get an operating license? Are you sure the fuel won’t go critical?”
The Mothers worried that the storage pools had not been demonstrated earthquake safe. Public hearings took place December 9th-12th, 1975 and the ASLB issued a ruling December 23rd, allowing fuel storage on site. A month later the fuel arrived. Silver reflected, “We should have been out in the streets to stop it. But the shipping information was kept secret.”
DeYoung wanted to help get its operating license and rejected denying it “because of the large financial loss involved and the severe impact such action would have on the nuclear industry.”36
Until PG&E proved the plant earthquake safe, DeYoung suggested the utility apply for an interim license. (This same procedure had been used at Humboldt Bay, except after allowing the plant to operate, the NRC determined the plant was not seismically safe and closed the facility.)
As an alternative to reducing the Hosgri’s magnitude, DeYoung suggested strengthening the plant with plastic analysis and structural modifications. Nathan Newmark, who suggested floating the Bodega reactor on compressible material to enable it to survive an earthquake, headed the NRC team to make Diablo safe. In the new analysis, the NRC staff accepted that the Hosgri could produce a 7.5 earthquake, but sought to “to demonstrate by logic, evidence, and judgment that the energy transfer to the site would be limited within the design capabilities of the plant.”37
DeYoung advised to pursue a similar course of action. In resolving the seismic issues, DeYoung asked all parties to give consideration to the following issues:
- The impact of our decision on the nation’s energy problems and programs.
- The impact of potential denial for operation of a plant approved for construction cannot be underestimated, especially where the basis for denial is in controversy.
- The impact of our decision on the moratorium before the California voters [Proposition 15].
- The impact of our decision on the validity of continued operation of plants at other sites with altered seismological bases, such as San Onofre, Pilgrim, etc.
- The impact of our decisions on the viability of continued operation of plants where it is uncertain that the capability exists to withstand altered design bases in areas other than seismic design, such as containment structural design, pipe whip inside containment; spurious valve failures, etc.38
DeYoung later told the Los Angeles Times, if Diablo were in the construction phase, a permit might never be issued. “But at the operating license stage, we had concurred with the design basis established by the utility at the construction permit stage. We had a part in this. And when we look at the operating license stage, where a billion dollars worth of plant was just sitting there, designed on the basis with which we concurred, you can’t take the same approach as you could when $32 million was spent.”39
“Economics was never to be a factor in the licensing of the plant,” Sandy Silver countered, and cited the ASLB decision denying a stop work order on Diablo’s construction pending an investigation of the Hosgri. According to that decision, “’Economic factors cannot be considered in any matter which involves a risk to public health and safety.’ And now its evident it was a lie.”
Both PG&E and the NRC produced studies that made Diablo safe. According to the “tau effect” the rock foundation under the plant and the reactor’s huge size, had a dampening effect on shaking at the site. Newmark’s theory suggested the plant could ride seismic waves much like a ship rides waves in the ocean.
Richard Hubbard, intervening against Diablo countered, “PG&E analyzed the earthquake away by sharpening the pencil in their reanalysis.”
Two consultants working for the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS) also rejected the methodology used by Newmark and PG&E. Dr. J. Enrique Luco thought that the methodology had not been properly justified. “The design response spectra adopted by the NRC may adequately represent the ground motion for a 6.5 magnitude earthquake while falling short by possibly 50 percent to the motion of a 7.5 magnitude quake,” he told the committee.40
With Newmark’s analysis, Luco observed, “a tendancy to take advantage of every effect to reduce the input and the response . . . A reduction of such proportion, if real at all, requires a more detailed and rigorous analysis than the one used by the NRC and the applicant.”41
“The combined effect of the poorly justified modifications introduced in the analysis leads to a reduction of the response by factors of two or larger,” Luco concluded. “The result is that the response level for a postulated 7.5 magnitude earthquake is about the same or less than the response obtained in the original analysis for a lower magnitude earthquake. This process makes a mockery of the seismic analysis and sets a dangerous precedent.”42
ORGANIZING IN SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY
In response to the push to license Diablo Canyon by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, plant opponents experimented with new tactics. Until 1976, little community organizing took place in the county. Even after the community teach—in at Cal Poly, local attitudes didn’t appear to be changing. At the close of the teach-ins, the moderator asked the audience how many people changed their mind about nuclear power. One person stood up.
“At that point I knew something else was needed,” Mothers for Peace member Raye Fleming recalled.
The following Summer, Fleming started thinking about new organizing methods. Members of the Continental Walk visited San Luis Obispo on their way to Washington, D.C., and introduced themselves to Fleming. The group discussed the possibility of creating a statewide network organizing “direct actions” against Diablo Canyon. And then to illustrate what direct action was, five people walked past the front gate to Diablo Canyon and were arrested for trespassing.
“Direct Action,” Fleming explained is a method whereby people can take the issue out of the courtroom and to the people who should be making the decisions. It is a means whereby people first begin to here about an issue, then begin to understand it, and then work together to bring about social change. It ranges from leafleting to acts of civil disobedience. The media can be used as a vehicle for transmitting concerns to the people.”
Fleming contacted the American Friends Service Committee for help in organizing a statewide direct action network. David Hartsough, employed by the American Friends Service Committee, held workshops in San Luis Obispo to teach people the history of non-violent resistance and how to organize a campaign. Hartsough had years of experience with the civil rights movement and the anti-Vietnam War movement.
Hartsough traveled throughout the state and encouraged groups who previously worked on the Nuclear Safeguards Initiative to now study direct action. The groups learned about a nine month occupation at a nuclear power plant construction site in Whyl, Germany. Thousands of people participated in that demonstration and successfully stopped plant construction. People hoped something similar might happen in San Luis Obispo.
Fleming organized a non-violence study group in San Luis Obispo and staged an action at the ASLB Environmental Impact hearings December 7th-17th, 1976. “On the last day of the hearings,” Fleming recalled, “Members of the audience presented the Board members with photographs of their children or their neighbors children and said, ‘The decisions you make here today will affect these children.’ The Board was nervous at first, but relaxed as the photographs were passed around.”
The study group named themselves People Against Nuclear Power and announced their formation to local reporters by presenting a lemon meringue pie at the Nuclear Information Center. Later that year People Against Nuclear Power invited other anti-nuclear groups to participate in a May balloon launch at the gates of Diablo. Attached to each balloon was a card reminding people that had there been an accident at Diablo involving release of radiation, the contaminants would blow their way.
The groups worked well together and decided to form a statewide organization at a June 1977 conference. The seven anti-nuclear groups, which included the Mothers for Peace, named their coalition the Abalone Alliance — commemorating the thousands of Abalone killed during testing of Diablo’s cooling system in 1975. For their first activity, the coalition planned an August 6th rally opposing Diablo. During the rally, some people would commit civil disobedience. Individuals committing civil disobedience risk arrest for violating civil law, to obey a higher moral law. The Abalone Alliance didn’t want to repeat the type of violent demonstrations that occurred during the Vietnam War and learned a new kind of organizing style from the American Friends Service Committee. Prior to a demonstration, participants took non-violence training, and learned to remain calm during an arrest situation — even if the police behaved violently.
Rather than protesting as individuals, people formed affinity groups. Members of affinity groups looked after one another during arrest. Some affinity group members didn’t get arrested and acted as “support people” for those who were jailed. Affinity groups make it more difficult for law enforcement officials to isolate organizers for harsher treatment, and made it more difficult for provocateurs to disrupt a demonstration.
Affinity groups also function as the basic decision making unit during an action. Rather than having a designated leadership make decisions – everyone participates in the “consensus process.” A proposal is generated and discussed among the various affinity groups. A “spoke” then speaks for his or her affinity group at a “spokes council.” The various perspectives are discussed until a common agreement is reached. Affinity groups may meet several times to evaluate the various amendments to a proposal.
At any time, an affinity group can “block” a decision for the entire group, and the proposal cannot be implemented. Blocking is an act of conscience used only when a person feels it is immoral to go forward with a proposal. If a person simply opposes a suggestion, and cannot convince the rest of the group to change it, he or she can “stand aside,” and allow the proposal to go forward. Consensus decision making was something new to the anti-nuclear movement and attracted people who wanted the opportunity to participate in one of the purest forms of democracy.
Organizers used the August 6th, 1977 demonstration as an educational tool for “the community and the state”. No one expected the demonstration to close the plant, but viewed it as Susan Mesner explained, “as an act of protest on how little public E participation there had been at the licensing hearings. The occupation was to make clear to the NRC and PG&E that opposition to the plant was widespread. And there would be a real fight if they licensed Diablo.”
“If we’re going to stop nuclear power,” Mesner continued, “people have to find ways of resisting and speaking out. Every time some group does that, it has a ripple effect that gives courage to people, who until then have been quiet in their opposition.”
Prior to the action, Fleming and other San Luis Obispo residents distributed leaflets to construction workers explaining why the Abalone Alliance planned a civil disobedience demonstration at the plant and provided information on the dangers of radiation.
Fifteen hundred people attended a legal rally on the beach and watched 47 people walk past the front gate. Half of the trespassers lived in the county. Ian McMillian, an original intervenor participated in the civil disobedience. “The occupation was the only activity I’ve ever been in where concern for the common good was paramount,” McMillian remembered.
Police arrested the demonstrators a half mile down the road. At the arraignment McMillian pled guilty, and the judge sentence him to five days in jail and levied a $500 fine. Most of the other defendants chose to stand trial. During pre-trial hearings, the district attorney revealed that two of the occupiers were police agents. The judge postponed the trial while volunteer attorneys petitioned the California Supreme Court to drop all charges because one agent illegally participated in confidential lawyer—client negotiations. Two years later the court ruled in behalf of the Abalone Alliance and dismissed all charges.
The Abalone Alliance continued to grow after the 1977 demonstration. Rally participants returned to their communities and organized teach-ins focused on Diablo Canyon. Preparations began for a second action scheduled for the summer of 1978.
It appeared the NRC would approve operation despite inherent problems in the plant’s design. The Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards stated in a July 1978 letter to NRC Commissioner Joseph Hendrie, “The design criteria utilized in the seismic reevaluation of the Diablo Canyon Station for the postulated Hosgri event are in certain cases less conservative than those that would be used for the original design.
“This reduction for the effects of building size in based largely on judgment and experience rather than on extensive observations or analyses and has not heretofore been applied in the design of a nuclear powers,” the letter acknowledged.43
However the Board accepted the design with less conservatism because it believed the extensive NRC review made an error in seismic analysis unlikely; a 7.5 magnitude earthquake from the Hosgri was thought conservative; and the population density around the plant was low.
The Aces admitted problems still existed with the plant’s snubbers (which are intended to restrain the piping systems during an earthquake). Salt air destroys snubbers and four out of each one hundred failed during tests. But because the problem was generic to all plants, rather than specific to Diablo, defective snubbers could not be used as a reason for not allowing plant operation. The ACRS believed the problem could be solved in a timely manner after the NRC held generic hearings and decided upon a solution.
The opinion surprised neither the Abalone Alliance nor the Mothers for Peace. Preparations continued for a second civil disobedience action on August 7th. A small core group of people traveled throughout the state training people for the new demonstration. Participants planned to symbolically transform Diablo by planting trees and exhibiting alternative technology devices.
Six thousand people attended the rally and alternative energy fair. Throughout the day announcers on the stage called out the names of affinity groups to assemble with their clusters (a collection of affinity groups), and prepare for the seven mile hike to the plant site. Helicopters flew overhead and observers stood on the surrounding hills watching the affinity groups transform Diablo Canyon. Arrests took place throughout the day. While awaiting booking, the young Abalones sang songs and ate granola. Some of the older people lead songs with tunes form the sixties, but few people could remember the words. “We Shall Overcome” was most popular, but the group eventually tired of it and concluded with “We Shall End this Song Some Day.” Sheriffs’ deputies formed their own chorus line and participated in the festivities.
The following morning, a few affinity groups attempted to blockade the front gate and prevent construction workers from driving into the plant. By the end of the action, police arrested 487 people and held them· at a gymnasium at the California Men’s Colony. The day was hot, running water wasn’t available, and the room filled beyond capacity. Lunch consisted of baloney on Wonder Bread, a food despised by the vegetarian Abalones.
For most participants, this was their first experience in confinement with a large group of people. Many wanted to make food the discussion topic and demanded organic whole grained breads, bottled spring water, and organic vegetables. However most thought this frivolous and wanted to concentrate on more important political discussions, such as getting an exercise yard. Eventually a Sheriffs deputy walked to the center of the room and shouted, “Listen up men. You have a lot more important things to talk about than what you’re going to have for breakfast. Now we have scrambled eggs, fried potatoes, raw vegetables, and hot chocolate. We‘ll try to do better for lunch. So why don’t you go out there and eat.”
The speech was the only prodding necessary to break up the debate as everyone ran to the door.
A more complicated issue involved arraignments. The Sheriffs Department wanted to issue citations to everyone — in which defendants promised to return to the court at a later date for arraignment. Some organizers feared this arrangement because there was no guarantee everyone would receive the same charges. Bargaining power was lost by splitting up the group. The sheriffs promised equal treatment for everyone and arraignment dates by geographical area.
Discussion then shifted to whether or not to accept this office. Some advocated accepting the officer and returning to the community to organize. Others felt leaving confinement contradicted the action’s goal to stop Diablo Canyon and endangered organizers with harsher treatment. Staying in jail until arraignment ensured equal treatment for all defendants. Discussion continued for ten hours as the affinity groups tried to persuade people to accept their philosophy. Tensions flared. Eventually people realized consensus couldn’t be reached and it was okay for every individual to choose what he or she thought best. The experience showed the Abalone organizers the difficulty involved in making large group decisions.
Despite the problems, the consensus process impressed the police guarding blockaders. Several accepted anti-nuclear literature and wore “No Nukes” buttons in their lapels. One guard announced to the women prisoners as they left the gymnasium for arraignment, “When you came in here I wasn’t sure about what you were doing. But I want to thank you for this experience; you’ve really made me proud to be a woman.”
Raye Fleming reflected, “The 1978 Diablo Transformation contributed to more outreach and publicizing on Diablo than anything that happened in the county before.” Media coverage generated by the action brought the Diablo issue into homes throughout the state. Although the stories didn’t focus on problems with the plant, affinity groups returned to their communities to conduct follow-up educational workshops. Several affinity groups established political action committees in their counties. Nuclear transportation ordinances passed in four counties through the efforts of Abalone Alliance member groups. San Luis Obispo and Humboldt counties elected anti—nuclear candidates to the Board of Supervisors.
The aftermath of the blockade lingered in San Luis Obispo for several months. Most defendants negotiated for a mass trial and wanted to present a defense of necessity. Four men chose not to stand trial and pled no contest and refused the court imposed two year probation. County judges sentenced the men to six months in jail for refusing probation, and levied a $$00 fine. The local press publicized their plight and local residents wrote to the judge protesting the harsh treatment. After sixty days, the judge released the men.
Several individuals chose to stand trial and acted as their own attorneys. “Every one of the hundreds of jurists screened for the different trials had to think about Diablo,” Fleming said. ”With every conviction, jurists had to reflect on how Diablo affected them.”
Defendants attempted to put nuclear power on trial, but most judges didn’t allow that kind of a defense. A visiting judge made an exception for Sue Nicassio. Nicassio placed a pediatrician, a physicist, and a philosopher on the stand. The premise of her case involved the eminent danger of the plant. However, when questioned by the prosecutor if she believed Diablo presented an immediate danger, considering it had not been licensed, she said no, it wouldn’t be a danger until it came on line.
The jury deliberated for seven hours. One woman returned in tears. Ms. Nicassio was convicted because future danger did not justify trespassing, and the judge sentenced her to ten days in jail with no probation.
After months of negotiations, the remaining defendants persuaded the district attorney to allow a show trial consisting of 20 people. All people arrested at Diablo had the option of attaching themselves to the case. Defense attorneys attempted to put nuclear power on trial and brought in several experts to testify about the dangers of nuclear power. However Judge Robert Carter ruled that nuclear power was not on trial — that this _was a simple case of trespass.
Eventually Carter allowed the defendants to testify on their opinion of nuclear power. However the prosecutor told the jury that the testimony constituted hearsay evidence because none of the defendants were experts in the field. Jurors cried when Lea Woods, a retired school teacher told the jury how proud she was to have participated in the action with all the young people.
After three and a half days of deliberation, the jury found these defendants arrested for transforming Diablo — guilty of trespass, but not guilty of failure to disperse. Those blockading the front gate were convicted of failure to disperse, but found not guilty of trespass. The jury foreman advocated lenient sentences.
“This was a compromise decision by a jury sympathetic to out case,” defendant Charlie Varon asserted. “The jury was hamstrung by their instructions from Judge Carter, who said from the first day that the issue of nuclear power and its hazards was irrelevant to the charges.”
After reading the verdict, jurors embraced the defendants. One woman commented, “I thought raising my children was the most difficult thing I ever did, but sitting on that jury was much harder.”
In January 1979, the remaining 400 defendants had to appear before Carter and choose to either attach themselves to the show trial and appeal the verdict; accept sentencing and go to jail; or set a date for their own trial. Those choosing immediate sentencing, faced a 90 day suspended jail sentence, two years probation, and a $400 fine. The two year probation requirement meant if somebody committed civil disobedience within two years, he or she faced a 90 day jail sentence. Twenty—three individuals refused to accept probation and appeared before Carter to accept an immediate 90 day sentence.
Paul Burks, a member of the Friends of the Earth Board of Directors, reminded the judge of statements made during the trial before accepting the 90 day jail sentence, “’I don’t have the right to write new law,’ you said Judge Carter. “’This court believes that deliberate criminal conduct used as a means of protesting is indefensible since there are other effective methods of communicating ideas or dissatisfaction.”’ Burks turned to Carter and asked, “Where in the law I ask you Judge Carter, does it say you have the right to sentence so as to deter future acts of conscience via two years probation that strip me of my right to act on matters of conscience and highest law? I say you have ‘made law’ in this action and I refuse to accept your sentence.”
All 23 defendants appeared in court the following morning for final instructions _ before going to jail. After calling court to order, Carter apologized for the harsh sentences. “I must say I have handled it badly,” he told the defendants. “I think that being a judge, I sometimes forget that having the power to be a judge also requires that I use that power in a wise and careful manner. I don’t think I have in this case.”
Carter reduced the sentences of those refusing probation to two weeks in jail, with credit for time served, and a $300 fine. He warned those that planned to clog the courts by standing trial or fill the jails by pleading guilty, “I must tell you in advance that the whole jury system was all geared, either way you wanted to go, whether you wanted jury trials, or wanted to go to jail, arrangements had all been made. It isn’t that you’re going to break the system, because the system will work.”
With reduced sentences, several more people stepped forward to set a convenient time to go to jail. Cater allowed each to explain why they chose to commit civil disobedience. Some chose to sing songs and others read poetry. Ed Lang told the judge:
I’m here in this court you say,
To pled my case to you today. .
The law you say I did violate,
When I sat down outside that gate,
But I’ll do it again ‘cause I think I should,
Because nuclear power is no damn good.
Carter responded, “Mr. Lang, I like your style.”
“Judge Carter,” Lang responded, “I wish I could say the same.”
After listening to statements for most of the day, Cater chose to leave the bench and turned the remaining cases over to a local judge. Before leaving he told the defendants, “Perhaps no other judge has ever received so many gifts from people he was sending to jail. After all this, you may have a better educated judge. “I understand conscience, I really do, but I would hope one thing: that maybe ‘you ought to understand conscience too and what you’re trying to accomplish, and I hope at least you understand that if you’re really concerned about affecting and influencing the lives of others, you ought to act in a manner that will accomplish that result. “This has been an agonizing experience for me and I hope I’m a better judge- for it.” Listeners broke into applause as Carter made his exit.
ATOMIC SAFETY AND LICENCING BOARD EXAMINES PLANT DESIGN
While the San Luis Obispo tried people for trespassing at Diablo Canyon, the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board held hearings on the seismic safety of the plant. The hearings began in November 1978, and on the first two days, the public presented testimony. Representatives of the Mothers for Peace and the Abalone Alliance filled the room to testify. Farmers from the Central Valley urged the Board to approve Diablo because the electricity was needed to pump irrigation water. Another man urged the Board not to stop progress and described the Mothers for Peace as “Mothers for a Flat World,” and the Abalone Alliance as caring only about the “sex life of tree frogs, and birds and trees and animals.”
After listening to the public testimony, the Board listened to arguments on the seismic design of Diablo Canyon. Originally the ASLB did not allow ACRS consultants Enrique Luco and Mikhalo Trifunac to testify about their misgivings with the NRC’s seismic analysis. At the request of the interveners, an Appeals Board ordered the ASLB to subpoena the scientists.
Seven months after the hearings closed, the ASLB issued a decision. “The ASLB always likes to give the impression that they are deliberating and looking over the evidence,” Mothers for Peace member Jane Swanson recalled. “In point of fact the ASLB lifted most of their decision from its legal brief. They weren’t even creative enough to write their own material. The Board did not give the impression of impartiality.” The Mothers for Peace appealed the September 27th, 1979 decision to the Atomic Safety and Licensing Appeals Board.
DIABLO BECOMES A STATE ISSUE
While the ASLB evaluated Diablo’s safety, the Abalone Alliance continued its organizing effort and planned major rallies for the summer of 1979, culminating in a blockade to take place when the NRC licensed the plant. The first rally was scheduled for San Francisco April 7, 1979. One week before the rally, Three Mile Island came close to a meltdown proving the claims of the anti-nuclear movement — accidents happened. Suddenly everyone wanted to join the anti—nuclear movement. Twenty-five
thousand people attended the San Francisco rally. New groups sprang up around the state. Fourteen new groups formed in San Luis Obispo almost overnight. “Three Mile Island was a turning point in the community,” Raye Fleming remembered. “We were lucky we were so well organized, we could help the new groups organize themselves.”
On May 23rd, 1979, the Abalone Alliance member groups simultaneously distributed leaflets explaining the bad economics of Diablo Canyon at 93 PG&E offices in the service area. “For the first time people could work in their own community on the Diablo issue, “organizer Liz Paul remembered. “Several new Abalone Alliance groups formed after the action.”
The opposition to Diablo Canyon continued to build and different constituencies started to speak out against the plant. Nurses, doctors, architects, and realtors placed ads in the San Luis Obispo Telegram Tribune announcing their opposition to Diablo Canyon. On June 30th, 1979, 40,000 people rallied in San Luis Obispo against Diablo Canyon. Governor Jerry Brown flew in to announce his opposition to the plant:
I just came by to join your effort to deny the license to the Diablo Canyon – nuclear power plant. I not only call upon the NRC to deny the license, but I hereby serve notice that I personally intend to pursue every avenue of appeal if the NRC ignores the will of the community.
What you do here today symbolizes the triumph of people over profit and trust over fear. Those who oppose nuclear power can now be found in every country throughout the world — usually a minority, but a growing force to protect the Earth. Protecting something as wide as this planet is still an abstraction for many. Yet I see the day, in our own lifetime, that reverence for the natural systems — the oceans, the rain forests, the soil, the grasslands, and all other living things — will be so strong that no narrow ideology based on politics or economics will overcome it.
The energy crisis is real. It reaches to the roots of our fossil fuel culture. As you join to oppose the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, I ask you also to turn your minds to the heroic task of conserving and producing a sustainable g energy future. A family, a nation has only so much collective effort, so much capital to expend. If we work to build nuclear power plants, MX missiles, systems of overkill, and squander our energy like a prodigal son, we will reap the whirlwind. But if we conserve, if we invent some new energy systems, if we build mass transit for people and not for missiles, in short, if we build for the future, and not steal from it, the future will be ours and we will pass it on to those who come after us. No on Diablo Canyon.
The following day, newspapers throughout the state ran editorials condemning the Governor for meeting with Abalone Alliance leaders and for speaking at the rally. Within the Abalone Alliance, some people were elated to have Brown speak at the rally, and others thought the organization had sold out by choosing to work with elected officials.
Governor Jerry Brown kept his word, and became party to the intervention and used state funds to hire attorneys to argue the case. The Mothers for Peace welcomed his assistance.
The Three Mile Island accident and the growing public outcry to nuclear power forced all sides to change their strategy. The NRC suspended issuing all operating licenses until the cause of the Three Mile Island accident had been assessed. During the evaluation, a moderate earthquake rocked the Imperial Valley in Southern California. The 6.4-6.9 quake produced ground shaking greater than expected. A federal building meeting earthquake standers, collapsed. The Mothers for Peace petitioned to reopen the seismic hearings to admit new evidence compiled from the Imperial Valley earthquake.
At the new hearings, PG&E maintained that the plants large size prevented severe shaking and the rock foundation dampened the earthquake’s effects. However the utility’s own witness, Balton Seed, a structural engineer admitted under cross-examination that the rock base may actually transmit greater ground motion than the soft soil found in the Imperial Valley.
While the hearings continued, the Abalone Alliance co-sponsored 91 teach-ins in 53 cities showing the links between nuclear power and nuclear weapons. To counter the anti-nuclear sentiment, PG&E did its own organizing, creating Citizens for Adequate Energy (CAE). Citizens for Adequate Energy purported to be a grassroots group educating people about California’s energy needs. However, financial reports filed with the Public Utilities Commission showed that contributed $388,000 to the organization in 1980 — $17,000 cash, and the rest in payment to employees doing CAE work.
CAE leaflets criticized Diablo Canyon opponents without mentioning names. “Demonstrations. Petitions. Rallies. Blockades. Attempts to reopen hearings that were concluded more than ten years ago. . . Those who would block all energy seem to work around the clock. They’re flamboyant. Their claims are scary. They make the news. And . . . they have just about succeeded in bringing the regulatory decision making to a grinding halt.”
The fact sheet continued, “Diablo Canyon will save the equivalent of 700 million barrels per year to almost 30 billion gallons of oil during the life of the plant. These oil savings could provide all the gasoline needed to run 700 thousand automobiles for the next 35 years.”
“This is simply untrue”, It’s About Times editor Robert Van Scoy wrote in his “Corporate Lies” column. “Power plants burn ‘residual oil,’ which is a waste product of gasoline and fuel oil refining. As the name implies, residual oil is the dregs of the crude oil barrel, what is left after the gasoline, heating oil, and other products have been extracted.”
NRC Commissioner Peter Bradford didn’t believe the oil displacement theory either. “Nuclear power is, of course, only useable to produce electricity and therefore can, for all practical purposes, only free up residual oil, of which there is a surplus anyway…. The fact that more residual oil is available does not mean there will be an increase in the supply of heating oil or gasoline.”
To augment the grassroots organizing, PG&E purchased full page ads in the San Luis Obispo newspapers featuring scientists expounding their view on nuclear power plants. “Each ad contains a quotation from a scientist, his picture and a signature, and several paragraphs of nuclear assertions,” Van Scoy explained. “PG&E seems to believe that everyone with the title, ‘Doctor,’ even in an unrelated field, will be a credible expert. The experts have included a microbiologist who claims that nuclear
plants emit negligible radiation and a computer scientist who claims waste disposal is no problem.”
PG&E designed their ads based on a marketing survey designed to find the best method of presenting pro—nuclear arguments. Consultant Hugh Schwartz found that San Luis Obispo residents respect the opinions of scientific experts, regardless of their training. The 1980 survey found 20 percent of the respondents pronuclear, 20 percent anti—nuclear, and 60 percent undecided. ”Their sentiments suggest that, in time, if there are no negative incidents, general support for the plant will grow,” Schwartz
explained to PG&E in his report. Because “plant opponents are more firm in their anti-nuclear position than are plant supporters in their pro-nuclear position. . . communications are needed to reinforce supporters’ views and make them less susceptible to opponents’ arguments about delaying the testing phase of the plant opening or reopening the earthquake hearings.”
The Mothers for Peace explored new methods to keep Diablo from opening. On March 11th, 1980, the Mothers requested Governor Jerry Brown to conduct feasibility study on converting Diablo Canyon to alternative fuels. A month later, the group formally petitioned the Public Utilities Commission to reopen hearings on the Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity for Diablo Canyon. The group argued that conditions had changed significantly since the Commission issued the Certificate. Strong support for the plant no longer existed in San Luis Obispo, the electricity wasn’t needed, and nuclear power was no longer an economical way to produce electricity.
Despite the endorsement of dozens of other organizations, members of Congress, and the California legislature, the PUC refused to respond to the petition. In desperation, a delegation of San Luis Obispo county residents staged a sit-in at the PUC offices. After a couple of days, the Staff and the Commissioners started talking to the demonstrators. Rochell Becker of Mothers for Peace told reporters, “They seemed interested and curious, but, unfortunately they don’t seem anxious to do anything. They’re more concerned about potential financial costs of converting or abandoning it than about the economic and human costs of operating it as a nuclear power plant.”
More than 200 San Luis Obispo county residents participated in the sit-in, and divided the time into shifts. Madeline Steele described her neighbor’s reaction to her participation in the demonstration, “Some of my friends work at Diablo and they have no quarrels with me. They’re glad to see someone is working against it.” Diablo engineers taught Steele a song sung to the tune of Edelweiss:
Pismo Beach, Pismo Beach, ‘
We’l1 be happy to leave you.
All us guys realize.
Someday they’l1 be a boo-boo.
Bloom and Blow let your flowers grow,
Nuclear power will aid you.
When you fly in the sky,
We’ll deny that we made you.
The lyricist has since left nuclear engineering.
On July 21st, 1980, the PUC legal staff recommended that hearings not be reopened. Legal counsel Vincent MacKenzie argued the petitioners failed to show evidence that operating Diablo Canyon would be more expensive than not operating it at all. He admitted that the PUC had the authority to reopen hearings if it felt inclined.
Mothers for Peace member Nancy Culver termed the inaction “both negligent and irresponsible.” MacKenzie added that the PUC might consider the Certificate if there was a health problem, but he said the radiation issue was the responsibility of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
“No responsible state agency is providing protection to the citizens and the ratepayers of California,” Culver said. “The state is, in effect, abdicating its responsibility to the federal government, in this case the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.”
Two weeks after the sit-in began, the group left the PUC offices. Culver urged all PG&E ratepayers to send their utility bills to the PUC and request the Commission to reopen Diablo’s Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity. On July 29th, 1980 the PUC Commissioners formally denied the Mothers for Peace petition. Commissioners said it was the responsibility of the petitioners to demonstrate not only that circumstances changed significantly since issuance of the Certificate, but that the total costs of providing electric service would be higher if the plant operated than if it didn’t operate at all. And that the electricity reliability provided by the units wasn’t worth the extra cost to ratepayers. Essentially the Commissioners wanted the Mothers for Peace to do a study that proved operating Diablo Canyon cost ratepayers more, than not operating it at all.
“We believe that revocation of the Diablo Certificates would be detrimental from a cost and reliability standpoint,” the majority opinion read. “lf there are grounds for precluding or delaying operation of the Diablo units, these grounds would, in our judgment, be based on concerns about radiological safety and health. We do not believe that the economic considerations under our purview should supersede the safety issues. To the contrary, if the plants present serious risk to public health and safety, they should not be operated. But these are issues exclusively within the NRC.”
Representatives of the PUC legal staff explained that the state constitution is very “clear requiring the PUC to protect the economic health of the industry.” Reopening .the Certificate hearings would probably lowers bond ratings and the Mothers for Peace ignored this in their petition. The staff did say their recommendation might be different if PG&E were applying for a Certificate for the first time.
More than 15,000 people sent their electric bills into the PUC protesting the decision not to reopen the Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity for Diablo Canyon. But the PUC refused to set up an Escrow account as requested, and returned all checks to the ratepayers.
The protests and delays worried PG&E. In an effort to bring the plant into operation before completing all the safety evaluations, applied for a low—power test license, July 15th, 1980, which would allow plant operation at 5 percent capacity. Sandy Silver, working with the Mothers for Peace explained, “low power testing is like a learner’s permit for a driver — you’re still behind the wheel of a car. And Diablo at 5 percent capacity is almost equivalent to a plant the size of Humboldt at full power.”
PG&E anticipated beginning low-power testing before completing an evacuation plan. In fact the county’s evacuation plan wouldn’t be ready for at least a year and a _ half. Although neither county officials nor local residents knew what to do in the event of an accident, PG&E thought it acceptable to operate Diablo at 5 percent capacity.
Potential accident studies conducted by the federal government and the state of California found deaths increased if the public didn’t know what to do after an accident. Sheltering reduced radiation exposure. A study conducted by the California Office of Emergency Services found radiation releases from Diablo could reach 100 body rems ten miles from the plant site. As many as 27,000 deaths could occur within a 20 mile radius surrounding the plant. One accident could render 4,500 square miles uninhabitable, forcing the relocation of 40,000 people.
Although the NRC allowed PG&E to apply for a low-power license, the permit couldn’t be issued until the Commission determined the adequacy of the plants security. However attorneys for the Mothers for Peace were not allowed to view the security plans. With no one essentially allowed to contest the p1ant’s security plan, the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board approved the plan after taking a tour through the facility.
The Appeals Board found the opinion flawed and overturned the decision. New hearings began November 10, 1980 at PG&E corporate headquarters in San Francisco. After negotiations, the Appeals Board allowed Andrew Baldwin, an attorney working for Friends of the Earth, to review’s security plan and to participate in the hearings. Before the Board issued a finding, NRC inspectors succeeded in bringing a gun onto the Diablo site undetected. public information office Richard Davin Q explained, “it was the guards first day on the job and he didn’t notice the gun on the metal monitoring machine. He’ll know better next time.”
One final set of safety hearings remained before the NRC could issue a low-power test license. Hearings began on May 19th, 1981 in San Luis Obispo. Although opened to the public, the public wasn’t allowed to speak. More than 1000 people listened to the proceedings outside the small hearing room which had seating for only 50 people. The ASLB refused to move the hearing to a larger facility. At that point Sandy Silver grabbed the microphone:
Eight years ago, when we first heard of the Hosgri fault, we asked you to stop construction and you didn’t listen to us. You said that money would never be a factor in the proceedings. But today all we hear is the delays are costing the utility money.
May I remind you that as taxpayers we’re paying the salaries of the NRC staff? As ratepayers we’re paying the salaries of PG&E employees. And because we don’t feel protected, we’re paying the salaries of lawyers to challenge what the NRC and PG&E are doing. We’re paying for these whole goddamn hearings and we’re not even allowed to talk at them.
Si1ver’s impromptu speech drew loud cheers from the crowd assembled outside. The Board agreed to move the proceedings to a larger location.
Despite the massive opposition, Diablo’s licensing moved quickly through the NRC. The Atomic Safety and Licensing Appeals Board issued a low-power test license July 17th, 1983, before it decided if the plant was secure from sabotage. However because of the controversy surrounding the plant, fuel loading couldn’t begin until the NRC Commissioners reviewed the decision. On September 21st, 1981, after reviewing the evidence, the commissioners voted 5-0 to allow low power testing.
Commissioner Victor Gilinsky criticized the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board for excluding evacuation and plant security issues from the hearings, and told his colleagues, “I cannot let this decision pass without commenting on the shoddiness of the board’s decision in this case.”
Three of the commissioners said serious safety questions still had to be answered before a full power license could be issued. The day the commissioners made their decision, the largest civil disobedience ever in the history of nuclear power was already underway in San Luis Obispo.
Footnotes for Chapter 7
1. Hal Strube, Meeting of the American Nuclear Society, February 16-18, 1965.
2. Martin Litton to Shermer Sibley, June 13, 1966. Sierra Club Papers, Diablo File, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.
3. Letter from Ansel Adams to Martin Litton, June 23, 1966, Sierra Club Papers.
4. Letter from George Marshall to Doris Leonard, May 28, 1966, Sierra Club papers.
5. Letter from Will Siri to Mrs. Fowler, January 14, 1967, Sierra Club papers.
6. Letter from Ansel Adams to Will Siri, January 22, 1967, Sierra Clup papers.
7. Memo from Hugh Nash to David Brower, January 22, 1967, Sierra Club papers.
8. Letter from Richard Leonard to Will Siri, February 20, 1067, Sierra Club papers.
9. Letter from George Marshall to David Brower, February 14, 1967, Sierra Club papers.
10. Letter ·from Richard Sill to Fred Eissler, February 7, 1967, Sierra Club papers.
11. Letter from David Brower to Richard Sill. February 13, 1967, Sierra Club papers. .
12. Letter from Betty Hughs to Ansel Adams, February 20, 1967.
13. Letter from Betty Hughs to Will Siri, February 20, 1967.
14. Esther C. Litton, letter to the editor, San Francisco Chronicle, March 20, 1967.
15. Elizabeth Barnett, proposed Diablo Canyon position from the Grand Canyon Chapter, September 1, 1968.
16. Ansel Adams, September 5, 1968.
17. Letter from Richard Leonard to all honorary leaders, September 16, 1968, Sierra Club papers.
18. Telegram from Dr. Edgar Wayburn to Club Leaders, September 17, 1968, Sierra Club papers.
19. M. Micheli, Geologists Report #5326 of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant Site Preliminary Geologic Investigation, January 25, 1966.
20. Letter from Mr. Marliave to Mr. F. Mautz, October 18, 1966, reviewing report #5326-65. Stewart Smith, interview with FBI Agent Henry F. Burns, March 9, 1978, File
22. Minutes of USNRC, Washington, D.C. March 18, 1975, Dockets No. 50-275 and 50-323. »
23. “Telecon Concerning Earthquake Design of the Diablo Canyon Site — Pacific Gas and Electric Company,” Files THRU: J.F. Newe,. Chief Environmental dc Radiation Safety Technology Branch, DIR, USNRC, Washington, D.C., March 30, 1967.
24. Memo to Roger S. Boyd from K. Woodard, Minutes of Meeting with PG&E, April 20-21, 1967, to Discuss Diablo Canyon Reactor – Docket No. 50-275, May 18, 1967.
25. S.C. Wolf and H.C. Wagner, Administrative Report, “Preliminary Reconnaissance Marine Geology of Area Between Santa Lucia Escarpmewnt and Point Buchon, California, May 1970.
- Ernest G. Hoskins and John R. Griffiths, “Hydrocarbon Potential of Northern and Central California Offshore,” pp. 212-228, published in Future Petroleum Provinces in the United States–Their Geology and Potential, Ira H. Cram, editor Tulsa Oklahoma: The American Association of Petroleum Geologists 1971.
- Memo to A. Giambusso, Director Division pf Reactor Licensing , from Richard DeYoung, Assistant Director of Light Water Reactors, Group I, Division of Reactor Licensing, USNRC, Washington, D.C., February g 1975, Dockets Nos. 50-275 E 50-323.
- Memo to A. Giambusso from Richard DeYoung, Diablo Canyon —Seismic Issues, USNRC, February 1975.
- 29. ibid.
- David L. Lenderts, M.D., Decision g Diablo: Power gd Profit, 2 People, San Francisco, American Friends Service Committee, July 1978.
31. NRC Director Briefing, “Talking Paper Diablo Canyon,” PDR-76-411 A106, November 11, 1975.
33. ibid. ‘
34. Letter from Richard DeYoung to John C. Morrisey, Vice President and General Council, , Docket Nos. 50-275 and 50-323, November 14, 1975.
35. NRC Director Briefing, November 11, 1975.
37. Richard DeYoung, “Program to Establish Basis to License Diablo Canyon,” USNRC, Washington, D.C., January 12, 1976.
38. Richard Deyoung, Memo to Roger Boyd, Diablo Canyon, USNRC, Washington, D.C., January 5, 1976, Dockets Nos. 50-275 and 50-323.
39. Paul E. Steiger, “Officals Push Diablo Plants Despite Major Quake Fault,” Los Angeles Times, June 29, 1977.
40. J. Enrique Luco, “A Preview of the Proposed Seismic Design Criteria for Reevaluation of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant,” A Report tg E Advisorv Committee E Reactor Safeguards,USNRC, 11 October 1976.
42. J. Enrique Luco, “Comments on the Proposed Seismic Design Reevaluation of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant,” A Report the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards, USNRC, 13 November 1976.
43. Stephen Lawroski, Chairman ACRS to Joseph Hendrie, Chairman USNRC, Subject: Report on Diablo Canyon nuclear Power Station Units 1 and 2, July 1