AOPA this week told California's San Luis Obispo County that implementing a temporary flight restriction (TFR) over the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant is unwarranted.
Backed by the San Luis Obispo Mothers For Peace anti-nuclear group, the county board of supervisors has recommended imposing a TFR 2 nm in radius and 2,000 feet high over a proposed spent fuel storage facility to be built at Diablo Canyon.
AOPA's letter highlighted a December 2002 study commissioned by the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) concluding that a large Boeing 767-400 commercial airliner striking a "dry cask" container of the type proposed for Diablo Canyon filled with spent fuel would not release radiation. The casks are generally about 15-20 feet tall with walls approximately two feet thick and weighing in excess of 200,000 pounds each.
"The study even stated that a steel storage container would only be dented, and the steel/concrete container would show cracks and crushing, but no radiation would be released," said Andrew Cebula, AOPA senior vice president of Government and Technical Affairs. "And that's after being hit by an aircraft that weighs 225 tons and carries 24,000 gallons of fuel. The typical GA aircraft weighs about one half of one percent of that and carries about 55 gallons of fuel."
AOPA reminded the county board that the FAA already has a longstanding advisory to pilots to avoid circling or loitering over power plants.
In June, the San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace and the Union of Concerned Scientists petitioned the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for additional protection from potential terrorist attacks, including suicide aircraft assaults, at Diablo Canyon. The petition specifically mentioned general aviation.
But in a formal response to the petition, AOPA reiterated that the average GA aircraft is incapable of causing significant damage and that the government and the aviation community have implemented general aviation security enhancements.