Nuclear Power Plant in California Alerts Residents to Prepare for Action


Residents in San Luis Obispo, California were shocked and unsettled when at approximately 3:56 pm on Friday warning sirens sounded off near the intersection of Orcutt and Biddle Ranch Road. The sirens, which are designed to alert the public in the event of an emergency, are part of Diablo Canyon Power – an electricity generating nuclear power plant near the popular and picturesque Avila Beach. Apparently Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) crews were making upgrades to the siren system and they inadvertently triggered the alert. Residents responded to the wailing of sirens with confusion and trepidation, which was further compounded by a subsequent cell phone “push alert” advising the public to, “Prepare for action.”

According to San Luis Obispo County Officials, the Emergency Alert System (EAS) was triggered by the PG&E crew’s upgrade activity on the early warning nuclear alert siren. The problem was further compounded when officials sent a message to California law enforcement that the siren alert was false. That message subsequently set off the Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) – the same system that is used to issue Amber Alerts. The WEA then broadcast a system alert via a text message to all cell phones in the county. In the meantime, the siren continued to wail, as it could not be shut off by remote but had to be disabled manually.

CaliforniaThe cell phone text alert message is designed to get people’s attention and thus arrives with an alarming audible tone. The language in the alert indicated that there was a “civil emergency in the area.” For ten minutes recipients of that alert had no idea what was going on and if the alert presented a real and present danger or was just a test. Ten minutes after the first text alert, county officials issued a second one informing residents that the text warning was a false alarm. Apparently, it took ten minutes to issue the second alert because there was no standard language already set to inform the public that a previous alert was not really an alert.

By some reports, people in San Luis Obispo County were concerned not just about the potential for a nuclear or natural disaster in California but also about mass shootings given that such shootings have all too recently been in the news. Some however, after seeking information via news sites posted social media comments of levity such as, “Civil emergency? Was someone trying to get out of work early?” and “I really hope that was by mistake …Got me thinking it’s about to turn into the Walking Dead around here!”

Diablo Canyon Power Plant became the only operational nuclear power plant in California after the San Onofre nuclear plant was shut down. According to PG&E, the power plant “is a safe, clean, reliable and vital energy resource for California.” Further, the company touts its ability to produce “low-cost, carbon-free” electricity, which serves some three million people.

County officials are still not quite sure how the early warning alarm sirens were triggered but have stated that they are grateful they learned of the system confusion before there was an actual emergency. According to Blair Jones of PG&E, San Luis Obispo’s 130 other emergency alert sirens are all in good working order. The sirens are designed to serve a critical function in the event of a real emergency. The fact that they are in proper working order is likely reassuring to the public for two reasons. First, because they do serve an important purpose and second, because in a county that is home to a nuclear power plant, erroneous alerts that call for the public to “prepare for action” are still likely to generate a significant amount of fear and trepidation.

By Alana Marie Burke


ABC News
The Tribune
San Luis Obispo County
Paso Robles Daily News

10 Responses to "Nuclear Power Plant in California Alerts Residents to Prepare for Action"

  1. James Greenidge   July 1, 2014 at 1:44 am

    Gee, I wonder when communities around gas and oil and hydro and chem facilities will get THEIR sirens, what their far more frequent lethal track records of putting away whole neighborhoods within mere minutes.
    Nuclear waste, long a political, NOT technical issue.

  2. john laband   July 1, 2014 at 12:00 am

    The whole nuclear industry is deluding itself that it will one day work out a plan to deal with high level waste. For 60 years it has kicked the can down the street and allowed itself to continue to produce high level waste from fission reactors but is no further along the road of deciding what to do with it. It is a sad tragedy of human folly. The whole renewable world is waiting for us and yet we seem too blind to see.

  3. Dar Reynolds   June 30, 2014 at 11:19 am

    Diablo brings up more questions than answers. After it was built, several previously unknown earthquake faults were identified. While it was being built, several workers were checked in to Mental Health services for drug and alcohol abuse. Plant designs were found to be reversed and had to be redone which caused delays in Plant completion. I reside approximately 12 miles from the plant and yet there have been times when I could not hear the announced siren testings. The final straw, for me, is the increase in earthquakes in the mid-west where there was fracking. I would vote to permanently close Diablo and prevent fracking in Calif. Even though Closed, Diablo would continue to be dangerous until such time as spent nuclear fuel can be moved and housed in a safe, permanent location underground. Not something that will be in the pipeline anytime soon.

  4. Torgen Johnson   June 30, 2014 at 9:46 am

    Please view this video of top experts and former head of state to gain a better sense of what “prepare for action” could mean to you. Citizen groups and elected officials living near San Onofre learned this while organizing to close their damaged reactor site. Diablo Canyon’s sirens should serve as a warning to surrounding communities that PG&E is risking what is not theirs to risk.

  5. Tom   June 29, 2014 at 9:59 pm

    radiation from the sun has exactly the same effect as from any radioactive isotope emitting beta or gamma radiation… in the US not one single person has died from radiation from a power plant.. many have been saved by them however via different medical uses of radioactive elements

  6. biodiversivist   June 29, 2014 at 9:30 pm

    a) California does not have a 40% surplus of energy.
    b) San Onofre was not shut down because of a non-existent leak.
    c) Nuclear has killed far fewer people per unit power produced than any other form of energy we have (it is not dangerous).
    d) The radiation from the sun does damage DNA and causes tens of thousands of cases of cancer annually.

  7. Molly   June 29, 2014 at 12:08 pm

    Clarification – the alert came from SLO County of Emergency Services NOT Diablo Canyon.

    forsetiboston – The sun does not emit cesium 137, strontium 90, iodine 131, plutonium 237 etc etc, only nuclear power plants & certain nuclear weapons facilities do as these are completely manmade radionuclides and they are extremely dangerous as they attack and alter DNA. Comparing natural background radiation with the radiation released from nuclear power plants etal is comparing apples and oranges.

  8. forsetiboston   June 29, 2014 at 10:48 am

    San Onofre did not “leak radiation” into the environment, and that was not the reason for the shutdown. California has a 40% surplus because of imports from out of state and the burning of glorious Natural Gas which is from all account about 50% less dirty than coal.

    Get a grip GIlmore, you are getting far more radiation from the sun than from the plant.

  9. Lindsey   June 29, 2014 at 9:42 am

    Shut it down!! It’s too dangerous, we’ve had enough “accidents” on this planet!!!

  10. Donna Gilmore   June 29, 2014 at 9:25 am

    California has a 40% surplus of energy without Diablo Canyon, so why are we taking this risk for energy we don’t need? Treat this as a warning to learn more. The next alarm could be real. The San Onofre nuclear plant in Southern California was shut down after it leaked radiation into the environment. Ratepayer were forced to pay almost a billion dollars for poorly designed replacement parts that leaked radiation. The plant was only permanently shut down after citizens got involved. We had to fight our own government to keep them from restarting the defective plant. Diablo Canyon is surrounded by earthquake faults and is producing extremely radioactive nuclear waste that wiil sit at our coastline for decades. Learn the facts at Then do what you can to help. Your future may depend on it.


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