Pacific Gas & Electric's Diablo Canyon plant in Avila Beach has California's last operating nuclear reactors. (photo: Michael Mariant/AP)

s the bankrupt federal felon Pacific Gas & Electric desperately hiding something very deadly at its Diablo Canyon Power Plant? Will we know by March 7, when the company wants to restart Unit One, which is currently shut for refueling? Will YOU sign our petition asking Governor Gavin Newsom and other officials to inspect that reactor before it can restart?

In 2010, PG&E blew up a neighborhood in San Bruno, killing eight people.

In 2018, it helped burn down much of northern California, killing more than eighty people. The company has now admitted its culpability in starting that infamous Camp Fire and has questioned its own ability to continue to operate.

On February 6, it incinerated five buildings in San Francisco.

The company is bankrupt. It has been convicted of numerous federal felonies. It actually has a probation officer.

But the real terror comes at its Diablo Canyon nuclear reactors, nine miles west of San Luis Obispo on the central California coast.

The reactors are embrittled. They may be cracked. As with the gas pipes in San Bruno and the power poles in northern California, PG&E’s maintenance at these huge reactors has been systematically neglected.

But the company does NOT want the public to inspect them. WHY?

Right now, Diablo Unit One is shut for refueling. Critical inspections for embrittlement, cracking and deferred maintenance could be easily and cheaply done. Public discussions could also be held on vulnerability to earthquakes, waste management, and corporate competence.

The public does not need Diablo’s power, which often overloads the grid, forcing the shutdown of cleaner, safer wind and solar capacity. Reopening a cracked reactor would turn the fuel assemblies on-site into high-level radioactive waste, converting a multi-million-dollar asset into a huge fiscal liability.

Diablo Unit One is in particular danger because it was designed in the 1960s. Its original blueprints did not account for the dozen earthquake faults since discovered nearby. Copper used in key welds is now known to be inferior. Older reactors like those at Diablo are susceptible to embrittlement and cracking, which could be catastrophic.

In 1991 the Yankee Rowe Reactor in Massachusetts was forced to shut because of embrittlement. It was younger then than Diablo One is now.

Because PG&E is in bankruptcy and on federal probation, the state has extraordinary power right now. Normally such issues are pre-empted by the feds.

But at this time the governor, state agencies, the California Public Utilities Commission, and the courts have the right to demand these inspections. Certainly the public has a legitimate expectation to be protected.

The downwind consequences of a major accident are beyond comprehension. Diablo is less than 200 miles upwind from Los Angeles. A radioactive cloud from a likely disaster would threaten the lives of millions. Damage to property and the natural ecology, including some of the world’s most productive farmland, would be essentially impossible to calculate.

US Representative Salud Carbajal (D-San Luis Obispo) has already questioned PG&E’s competence to run these two huge reactors. A number of Hollywood stars, along with State Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon, and numerous towns and party organizations, have already joined with more than a thousand grassroots activists to ask the governor to require these critical tests and to subject the findings to public scrutiny.

Given PG&E’s bankruptcy and criminal convictions, and the extreme vulnerability of reactors as old as those at Diablo Canyon, we must seriously wonder why the company would now ask to be exempt from a simple set of inspections.

To protect the health, safety, economy and ecology of our state, the governor, regulatory agencies, CPUC, and the courts must step in to demand these aged reactors be immediately subjected to painstaking public scrutiny.

There is no good reason not to do this, and no excuse for PG&E to be asking for an exemption from a simple, long-overdue inspection.

The last thing California can afford is a radioactive replay of what has happened with that pipeline explosion in San Bruno or those catastrophic fires in what’s left of the northern forests.

Next month marks the 40th anniversary of the accident at Three Mile Island, and the release of The China Syndrome, which told a terrifying tale we also do not want to see repeated.

You can sign our petition asking Governor Newsom and our public officials to step in at Diablo Canyon NOW, before it is once again too late.

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Harvey Wasserman’s Green Power & Wellness Show is podcast at; California Solartopia is broadcast at KPFK-Pacifica, 90.7 fm, Los Angeles. His Life & Death Spiral of US History: From Deganawidah to Trump to Solartopia will soon be at