2011-10-12 NRC Undermines Federal Law in Decision regarding Diablo Canyon

In 2010, the NRC's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board granted the Mothers for Peace a hearing on four contentions regarding PG&E's license renewal application. On October 12, 2011, however, the five NRC commissioners agreed to hear only one of those contentions and reversed the decision to hear the three others. Mothers for Peace believes that this decision excuses PG&E and the NRC from having to fully comply with the laws that are intended to protect the public.

In a decision issued on October 12, 2011, the five commissioners of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) affirmed a 2010 decision by the NRC’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) to grant San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace (SLOMFP) a hearing on Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s (PG&E’s) application for renewal of the Diablo Canyon operating licenses. The current operating licenses expire in 2024 and 2025, and PG&E has applied for 20-year extensions.

The Commissioners ruled that the ASLB had correctly admitted a contention in which SLOMFP charged that further studies of the newly-discovered Shoreline Fault must be incorporated into the final licensing decision for the nuclear plant, which operates and stores more than five million pounds of highly radioactive waste, dangerously close to several active earthquake faults.

SLOMFP is dismayed, however, that the Commissioners reversed the ASLB’s detailed and carefully reasoned 2010 decision to admit three other contentions, which challenged PG&E’s inadequate program for management of aging reactor components, inadequate consideration of earthquake risks to the spent fuel pools, and the failure to consider measures for mitigating the impacts of a terrorist attack. According to SLOMFP spokesperson Liz Apfelberg, “this decision excuses PG&E and the NRC from having to fully comply with the laws that are intended to protect the public, without a good reason.  We cannot have confidence in the NRC or in the safety of renewed operation of Diablo Canyon.”

SLOMFP has the option of appealing to the Ninth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals. No decision has been made at this time.

August 4, 2010 order of the ASLB accepting four Contentions of SLOMFP

October 12, 2011 order of the Commissioners that contradicts the reasoning of the ASLB