2004-06-30 Coastal Commissioners recommend full hearing for Diablo dry cask project

The Tribune article by David Sneed summarizes the recommendation by the Coastal Commissioners for a full hearing regarding the proposed dry cask storage installation at Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant.

David Sneed, The Tribune, Wed, Jun. 30, 2004

Two state Coastal Commissioners have identified areas where a proposed dry cask storage installation at Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant may violate state coastal protection laws and are recommending a full hearing before the commission. These concerns include coastal access and polluted runoff, among others, surrounding plans to store highly radioactive used reactor fuel in a new above-ground facility at the plant.

The recommendation all but guarantees that the commission will schedule a public hearing on the proposal when it meets July 15 in Costa Mesa. The hearing will be held no sooner than September, said Tom Luster, an analyst in the commission's San Francisco office. "It won't be the August hearing," he said. "It will be at least a few months past the July hearing."

Local environmental activists as well as commissioners Sara Wan of Malibu and Pedro Nava of Santa Barbara raised eight areas of concern after county supervisors approved the project April 20. Staff agrees that six are substantial enough to warrant examination by the commission.

Environmentalists said they are pleased that the commission will likely hold a hearing on the project. They are concerned that a facility, which is intended to be temporary, may end up being in place for generations. "The residents of our community must be assured that our fragile coastal zone will not be permanently and possibly irrevocably damaged by PG&E's expanded nuclear waste storage complex," said Rochelle Becker, an activist with the San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace, one of the appellants.

PG&E officials said they will not be surprised if the project goes to a full hearing. The utility contends the storage facility will safe. Federal nuclear officials have already approved the project. "Any time the staff recommends a full hearing, it's pretty much a sure thing," said Jeff Lewis, plant spokesman. "We will be looking forward to making our case before the full commission. It's the same case we've made to the planning commission and Board of Supervisors here."

PG&E needs to build the storage facility because pools at the plant, where the fuel is currently stored, will be full in 2006. The facility will consist of a concrete pad upon which as many as 138 huge steel-and-concrete casks containing used fuel assemblies will be mounted. State and federal approval of the project will allow the plant to operate until its current license expires in 2025.