A hearing on an agreement to allow Pacific Gas & Electric to recover $85 million in costs for Diablo Canyon\u2019s nuclear power plant license extension was abruptly halted March 16. An administrative law judge sent a notice that the scheduled April 13 settlement hearing was canceled. No reasons were stated. \u201cAt this point in time the settlement is still pending and awaits further commission action,\u201d said PG&E spokesperson Kory Raftery. No hearing date has been set, he added. The Division of Ratepayer Advocates, The Utility Reform Network, and PG&E agreed to a deal allowing the use of ratepayer funds to support the utility\u2019s license extension that is being considered by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Under the settlement terms, up to $80 million of PG&E\u2019s projected $85 million in spending would be deemed reasonable--but costs that exceed that level would be subject to a review. The Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility opposes the settlement. \u201cIt effectively short-circuits the whole license renewal process without a hearing,\u201d said Scott Fielder, independent nuclear attorney. The hearing cancellation occurred as fears grew of a total meltdown of the Japanese nuclear units. \u201cI assume the commission is considering the events in Japan in light of this application,\u201d said Matt Freedman, TURN attorney. PG&E\u2019s spokesperson, however, would not \u201cspeculate\u201d as to the reason for the hearing postponement. Raftery said utility president Chris Johns does not plan to halt the relicensing effort. \u201cThere will be time for hearings and public participation as well as time to put into place safety requirements that may be [required] in the aftermath,\u201d Johns stated. According to commission documents, the three parties reached the deal because of the \u201ctremendous potential upside\u201d of a 20-year license extension--in which the utility owner estimates \u201cpotential benefits to customers\u201d between $3.5 billion and $16.3 billion. The cost of environmental mitigation was not included in the $85 million. Mitigation expenses are to be dealt with separately \u201cto reflect the fact that it is difficult to predict\u201d what costs state and local agencies involved in the license extension will impose, according to the settlement. Another $16.73 million that regulators approved for seismic studies at Diablo Canyon in August 2010 also was not included. The CPUC lacks an in-house seismic expert. Its budget request to hire an expert was rejected by legislative budget committees (Current, March 4, 2010) In settlement talks, the DRA proposed a $5 million reduction in the spending, but did not oppose the entire plan. The Diablo relicensing settlement would require PG&E to: -Update the cost-effectiveness analysis of a longer-running nuclear plant; -Disclose data used in analysis; and, -List \u201cunquantified risks.\u201d Freedman said TURN supported cost recovery for the relicensing process because the settlement includes an \u201cunprecedented agreement\u201d by PG&E to provide \u201ctransparent and cost effective\u201d benchmarks through 2024. Thus, future cost changes over $20 million associated with Diablo in all commission proceeding are to be compared with their initial cost estimates on an \u201capples to apples basis,\u201d he said. Calls to significant policymakers for comments were unanswered as of press time.