On July 9, 2015 San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace (SLOMFP) attorney Diane Curran presented oral arguments before an Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) Headquarters in Rockville, MD.
Attorney Curran’s arguments were in support of four new Contentions, or legal arguments, in opposition to license renewal of the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant. SLOMFP is asking the ASLB to hold full hearings at a future date on the issues presented.
The Contentions discussed at this hearing were based on new seismic information from Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), operator of the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant near San Luis Obispo, CA. SLOMFP asserted that PG&E’s program to protect against earthquake impacts is inadequate because PG&E has understated severe earthquake risks. Supporting SLOMFP’s claims was expert witness David D. Jackson, Department of Earth and Space Sciences at UCLA, an authority on earthquake faults, especially those in and off the coast of California.
Ms. Curran also presented evidence that PG&E has skewed its new analysis of energy alternatives to ignore or reject a wide range of renewable energy options available to replace the power generated by Diablo Canyon. Providing evidence in support of SLOMFP assertions was Mark Cooper, Senior Fellow for Economic Analysis at the Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School, an expert in the field of economic and policy analysis with a focus on energy sources.
SLOMFP spokespersons Linda Seeley and Jane Swanson were present at oral arguments. Linda Seeley stated that, “California has all the renewable energy it needs to replace the power from the dirty, dangerous and expensive Diablo Canyon. We don’t want and we don’t need this aging dinosaur in the 21st Century.”
Jane Swanson commented, “PG&E’s assertion that Diablo can survive any earthquake Mother Nature comes up with is a hopeful projection, not a prediction that can be backed up with any certainty. The catastrophic consequences of a large earthquake should not be imposed on citizens for the sake of PG&E’s bottom line.”
The ASLB panel indicated that August 24 is the target date for its announcement of rulings on the acceptance of the new Contentions, but that it is possible for that date to be moved further into the future.
San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace opposes PG&E’s application for 20-year operating license extensions for Diablo Canyon Units 1 and 2, with current licenses due to expire in 2024 and 2025. In November of 2009, PG&E applied to NRC to extend Diablo Canyon operations until 2044 and 2045.
The Diablo Canyon facility includes two nuclear reactors and the storage of all the high-level radioactive wastes generated by those reactors since 1984. Currently, most of the used fuel (which is more radioactive than the fuel in the reactors) is stored in over-crowded pools. Approximately a third of the spent fuel has been transferred to dry casks.
In 2010, Mothers for Peace won a hearing before the NRC’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board on the question of whether PG&E had given adequate consideration to the earthquake risks posed by the Shoreline Fault, discovered only in 2008, in its program for mitigation of severe accident impacts. The NRC put Mothers for Peace’s seismic challenge on hold for several years while PG&E completed required additional seismic studies. When those studies were submitted mid-March of 2015, the new information included opened the door for SLOMFP to file additional seismic contentions, the ones upon which oral arguments were presented July 9.
PG&E’s Amended Environmental Report, also submitted in March of 2015, failed to evaluate many of the energy alternatives that are already commercially viable or will become so by the time the current Diablo Canyon operating licenses expire in 2024 and 2025. It also failed to acknowledge the deteriorating economics of aging reactors. SLOMFP accordingly filed two new contentions challenging that report. Attorney Curran had the opportunity to present the reasoning behind those contentions also at the July 9 oral argument.
The Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Administrative Judges for these oral arguments were Paul S. Ryerson, Chairman; Dr. Gary S. Arnold; Nicholas G. Trikouros.