Diablo Relicensing Waits for Direction

By Published On: May 8, 2014

A 20-year license extension for Pacific Gas & Electric’s Diablo Canyon nuclear plant may be rekindled in June. A May 2 letter from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission nudged the utility to commit, requesting a supplemental environmental impact statement for the facility in June. PG&E did not pledge in either direction. “We have made no decisions on pursuing license renewal because we have not completed the evaluation of the advanced seismic research,” stated Blair Jones, PG&E spokesperson. He said that while data were collected two years ago, it still is being crunched. “It’s a lotta’ data,” Blair said. The utility genuflected to the federal agency’s re-licensing, promising new seismic data at the time while delaying the re-licensing formality. Some two- and three-dimensional data were gathered, but data collection ended when the California Coastal Commission in 2012 denied the utility permission to finish high-energy 3-D collection due to concerns over effects on marine life. Ratepayers spent $64.25 million for those studies. The utility is “targeting” public access of that information in June, Blair noted. The data collection notion was created by anti-nuclear forces to show that the state’s shaky coastline shouldn’t be host to radioactive waste. But the price to ratepayers and the methods of seismic study went beyond the original concept, intruding on ocean health. Researchers stood their ground arguing for more data collection. Fishermen and the Coastal Commission said that the activity bordered on marine life open fire. “The evaluation and interpretation of the data is ongoing and needs to be completed first. We are targeting completion of that effort and the issuance of a report on the advanced seismic studies around June,” Jones added. PG&E pulled its original request for relicensing in June of 2011 after nuclear reactor meltdowns at Fukushima, Daiichi, in March that year. The federal agency had to stop relicensing June 8, 2012, when the Washington D.C. Court of Appeals decided that highly radioactive spent fuel has to be subject to federal environmental review. Until the confluence of those two incidents, federal regulators routinely approved 20-year license renewals for nuclear plants. Of 100 operating reactors, the agency’s relicensed 73 reactors and is reviewing renewal applications. According to the commission, companies have notified it of plans to submit license renewal applications for 17 more reactors by the end of 2018. Except for Diablo Canyon, California’s retired its other nuclear plants. Rancho Seco, owned by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, was shut down in 1995. Humboldt Bay, owned by PG&E, was closed in 1976. The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, operated by Southern California Edison, and partially owned by San Diego Gas & Electric and Riverside, was permanently shut down in June 2013.

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