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MSNBC "Rachel Maddow Show" - Transcript

Interview

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The state senator who represents the district in which Diablo Canyon was located has been doing his darnedest to get attention paid to the safety problems at this little fishing machine. His name is Senator Sam Blakeslee. He is a Republican. He"s also a geophysicist with a doctorate in earthquake studies. And he joins us now.

Senator, thank you so much for being here tonight.

STATE SEN. SAM BLAKESLEE ®, CALIFORNIA: Rachel, I"m glad to be here. Thanks for take an interest in this important issue.

MADDOW: Well, let me ask you if it is clear to you that we understand and appreciate all of the earthquake risks at the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant?

BLAKESLEE: I would, in fact, say it"s abundantly clear that we do not. As you rightfully mentioned in your introduction, the Hosgri fault was discovered after the site was already designated, the location of this nuclear power plant. The date it was already present from oil companies that knew that fault was out there, the utility didn"t find it until much too late--a very significant fault.

And I became very engaged on this issue when I was elected in 2005 and began getting legislation put together. And a second fault was found, this one literally hundreds of meters from the facility, some--quite a large fault. And it may actually intersect with this larger Hosgri fault offshore.

So, we may have this confluence of two faults which actually link up, thereby creating the potential of a very significant earthquake very close to the facility, which, of course, would be a worst case scenario for us.

MADDOW: Do you think that means that Diablo Canyon is inherently, seismically unsafe, or seismically unsuited to operate as a nuclear facility? Or do you think this is the sort of thing that we could--we could get more certainty about with further studying?

BLAKESLEE: As a scientist, by training, I"m always going to be the one that"s going to argue that we get the data to answer the question rather than speculate.

And that"s been my frustration is the Nuclear Regulatory Commission I think has been turning a blind to this. They"ve been taking a check the box attitude. They treat these nuclear power plants next to faults like every other nuclear power plant around the country. They don"t have a specific policy or approach toward dealing with this extraordinary type of risk and hazard.

And that"s been what"s frustrating to me, is we need to nail down what the true risk assessment is so we can make some intelligent decisions about the fate of this facility.

MADDOW: And you think the license to operate Diablo Canyon should hinge on that further study?

BLAKESLEE: I think we should not move forward with the license until these studies are completed. The California Energy Commission, pursuant to my legislation, directed the utility to undertake certain steps to answer these questions rather than pursuing those actions with alacrity. Instead, the utility has raced to the NRC to try to get their facility relicensed, even though their licenses run through 2024 and 2025 for the two reactors. And the time, it would take to do the studies would be probably just three, four years.

So, it"s very frustrating to me as someone who represents the constituents in this area to understand why a utility would go put--racing to relicensing ahead of the need to get the information to understand how to retrofit the facility, or to know, in fact, if that"s the place to be until 2045 generating electricity.

MADDOW: Senator Blakeslee, I"ve been reading up on you and I know enough about you to know that you"re not categorically opposed to nuclear power. But representing this district, looking at the behavior of the utility here, looking at the behavior of the state agency that"s are designed to be keeping us safe here--do you think that the nuclear power companies, the industry, is capable of being as honest about the safety of their plants as they need to be for the American public to be confident in this as technology?

BLAKESLEE: Rachel, I know a lot of people who work for PG&E, and to a person that I know, they are hard-working, they"re sincere, they have a lot of integrity. And I know a lot of people actually in PG&E"s management. I have a lot of regard for them.

I think the challenge is the regulatory entities that are tasked with really providing oversight have become too close to the industry. They no longer take their responsibilities seriously with regard to seismic safety.

So, from my perspective, I think the larger issue--I think all utilities, I think all oil companies, I think all industries have a certain duty to shareholders, but we as legislators and those that write laws that direct regulators to take action need to be tough on these regulators to make sure they do their job so that we end up with an environment that is safe, where we can build and know we"re actually generating electricity but we"re doing it safely.

So, I"m not going to take a shot at PG&E. I don"t think that would be fair, beyond the statement that I am concerned that they put relicensing ahead of the seismic studies. I think they need to turn that around and do it immediately. I"ve called for them to do so and I"m waiting to hear from them. I issued that challenge just two days ago.

MADDOW: People who say that commie, pinko, liberals like me and Republicans such as yourself cannot never find common ground on issues of the role of government and regulation, vis-a-vis the industry, those people are wrong and we"ve just proven it.

California State Senator Sam Blakeslee, your willingness to have this really constructive discussion, not only with your constituents but with us here on national TV, is something I"m really grateful for. Thank you very much.

BLAKESLEE: Thank you for your interest in this. Appreciate it.

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