2011-6-07 52 MONTH DELAY IN DIABLO CANYON LICENSE RENEWAL HEARING SCHEDULE

A June 7 Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Order to delay for 52 months the schedule for hearings on an application for license renewal at the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant leads to the inescapable conclusion that the original schedule was unjustified.

The Order, issued by the NRC’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB), vindicates San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace’s (MFP’s) position that Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s (PG&E’s) September 2009 application for license renewal was premature, and that meaningful assessment of that application could not be justified before critical seismic studies were completed. The ASLB  recognizes that these studies are crucial to the environmental analysis for Diablo Canyon. PG&E expects to complete required seismic studies by December 2015.

Prior to this Order, hearings were scheduled to take place before the completion of seismic studies, and only a final decision would have been delayed until the end of 2015.

“This more realistic schedule is especially important in light of the Fukushima catastrophe,” MFP spokesperson Jane Swanson comments. “It provides four-plus years to examine and apply the lessons yet to be learned from the Fukushima disaster.”

The ASLB Board’s NOTICE OF 52-MONTH DELAY AND ORDER REQUIRING STATUS REPORTS is available through the NRC website using ADAMS, accession number ML111580337.

BACKGROUND:

The current operating licenses for Diablo Canyon’s two nuclear reactors expire in 2024 and 2025, respectively. PG&E applied on November 23, 2009 to continue operations until 2044/2045.

San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace filed a legal challenge against PG&E’s application for license renewal in March of 2010, represented by attorney Diane Curran of Washington D.C.

A summary of the four MFP Contentions accepted by the ASLB follows. Note that the ASLB Order of June 7 is in agreement with the first of the Contentions. MFP has not, however withdrawn the Contention, pending future developments.

PG&E ‘s application lacks crucial information on the seismic risks to Diablo, given that studies of the Shoreline Fault, identified in 2008, are incomplete.  Seismic studies of the newly discovered fault and its potential interaction with the Hosgri fault will not be completed until 2013. SLOMFP contends that PG&E and the NRC should wait for the study results before reaching any conclusions about the risks posed by severe earthquakes.

PG&E has failed to demonstrate the ability to safely manage the aging plant, which was designed in the 1960’s, and constructed between the late 1960’s and the early 1980’s. NRC inspection reports document an “adverse trend” of chronic errors in the management of safety equipment at Diablo Canyon.  SLOMFP is concerned that PG&E’s inability to identify and correct current problems in a timely and effective way will be repeated in the license renewal term, when detecting aging effects like corrosion and degradation will be even more challenging.

PG&E has failed to address the airborne environmental impacts of a reasonably foreseeable spectrum of spent fuel pool accidents, including accidents caused by earthquakes, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act.

PG&E’s application lacks a required discussion of the cost-effectiveness of measures to mitigate the environmental impacts of a terrorist attack on the Diablo Canyon reactor during the license renewal term.