A California Public Utilities Commission judge has rejected Pacific Gas & Electric?s bid to eliminate scrutiny of costs for security against increased terrorism threats at its Diablo Canyon nuclear facility. This followed a flurry of motions by PG&E to eradicate most testimony examining its move to replace the plant?s steam generators. The judge said that intervenors? request for seismic review and competitive bidding for Diablo Canyon?s output would effectively decimate the proceeding. However, PG&E appears to come out ahead, as the judge said examination of potential seismic retrofit costs and a search for cheaper alternatives to the 2,200 MW facility are off the table. Not addressed by administrative law judge Jeffrey O?Donnell?s August 31 ruling is PG&E?s requested protective order to keep secret its testimony on Westinghouse, the maker of steam generators currently installed at Diablo. Westinghouse has faced a raft of lawsuits from other utilities over faulty steam generators. PG&E maintains that calls by an environmental and consumer advocacy coalition for evaluation of possible seismic retrofit costs are ?irrelevant,? because the Nuclear Regulatory Agency has exclusive jurisdiction over design safety for nuclear plants. Even if federal regulators didn?t have dominion, recommendations for seismic upgrades are ?speculative,? PG&E claimed in an August 10 motion. Overall, PG&E dismisses arguments that it could be underestimating costs required to keep the plant running. ?We?re just after a full cost accounting of the expected and potential costs associated with this application,? countered Clyde Murley, senior policy analyst for Grueneich Resource Advocates, representing the Sierra Club, Public Citizen, and other coalition members. Murley said, for instance, that evidence has surfaced that Diablo faces a different earthquake risk than anticipated when the facility was designed, one that the current retrofit may not be designed to resist. O?Donnell agreed with PG&E that oversight of seismic requirements for Diablo is beyond the CPUC?s jurisdiction, adding that conducting a seismic review could effectively kill PG&E?s bid for replacement steam generators. Rebuffed, however, was PG&E?s move to equate potential terrorist threats with potential earthquakes in its motion to strike testimony regarding costs for increased protections against terrorism that environmentalists and consumer advocates say should be part of Diablo?s financial picture. Though the CPUC does not have clout over security requirements at Diablo, data on increased security costs help shed light on whether maintaining the plant is a good deal for ratepayers, according to O?Donnell. The Western Power Trading Forum (WPTF) has bristled at PG&E?s effort to have its testimony dismissed from consideration. WPTF wants competitive bidding for Diablo?s output to see whether there are cheaper options for power than the nuke plant. ?It is notable that a proposal designed to determine if their costs could be reduced is deemed by PG&E to be irrelevant,? said WPTF, adding that PG&E ratepayers would not be quite so hasty to defer to the utility?s judgment as to what is or is not relevant. ?Further, one would also assume that this commission would always be receptive to ideas for reducing costs for California ratepayers.? WPTF?s request was rejected on grounds that waiting for a solicitation process to wrap up would effectively bring the case to a halt, according to O?Donnell. In another move, PG&E claims that information on steam generator replacement contractor Westinghouse should be put under confidential seal to protect trade secrets. These data have ?independent economic value? to PG&E because it is unknown who can obtain economic value from their disclosure or use, maintains the utility. PG&E said it has put out a competitive bid for replacement steam generators (<i>Circuit<\/i>, August 8, 2004). Hearings on the need for replacement of Diablo?s steam generators are set to run from September 20 through October 1.