2010-08-26 San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace Fights PG&E's Bid to Block Hearing on Diablo License Renewal

On August 26, San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace (SLOMFP) attorney Diane Curran filed counter arguments to PG&E’s appeal of a recent ruling by an Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) of the NRC. PG&E has objected to every single one of the four issues on which the ASLB has agreed to hold hearings.


In a brief to the five Commissioners at the head of the NRC, attorney Curran of Washington, D.C., argued that none of PG&E’s arguments against the issues that SLOMFP seeks to raise has legal validity. If the Commission rejects PG&E’s appeal, a hearing will be held in late 2011, after the NRC issues the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed license renewal decision.


In a hearing, SLOMFP will present evidence to the NRC that PG&E’s application for license renewal at Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant (DCNPP) does not meet the requirements of NRC regulations or of federal environmental law for protection of the Diablo Canyon facility against the effects of a severe earthquake or an attack on the facility. SLOMFP is particularly concerned that PG&E is going ahead with its license renewal application before it has finished a crucial study of the newly discovered Shoreline Fault, which runs through the Diablo Canyon site. The technical Staff of the NRC agrees with SLOMFP that PG&E needs to provide additional information about the Shoreline Fault before license renewal can be approved.


In addition, SLOMFP will present evidence that PG&E needs to correct its current problems with management of safety equipment before undertaking the even greater demands of managing aging and deteriorating equipment during the license renewal term.


SLOMFP spokesperson Jane Swanson states, “PG&E’s move to try to shut us out of a hearing on major safety issues is indicative of the attitude we have witnessed for 37 years.  Mothers for Peace will continue to press for citizen participation in decisions that affect the health, safety, and economy of all of us who live downwind of this aging nuclear plant and radioactive waste storage site.”


Although the current operating licenses for the two Diablo Canyon reactors do not expire until 2024/2025, PG&E is requesting licenses to operate both units an additional 20 years, until 2044/2045.




Technical Contention-1 concerns PG&E’s failure to demonstrate that it has ability to safely manage the aging plant during the 20-year license renewal period. NRC inspection reports document an “adverse trend” of chronic errors in the management of safety equipment at Diablo Canyon. According to the legal brief filed by SLOMFP attorney Curran, the issue is “whether an organization that is demonstrably incapable of providing adequate management for safety equipment under current circumstances can also respond to the additional demands of managing deteriorating and aging equipment.”


Environmental Contention-1 concerns PG&E’s failure to consider information regarding the newly-discovered Shoreline fault that is necessary for an understanding of seismic risks to the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. Attorney Curran asserts that SLOMFP “has cited extensively from government documents showing that (a) the Shoreline Fault is a potentially significant contributor to earthquake risk at DCNPP, (b) the information presented to date is only “preliminary,” and (c) earthquake risks dominate the severe accident risks at DCNPP.” A series of seismic studies is scheduled to be completed in 2013, but PG&E is pressing for license renewal before the additional research is complete.


Environmental Contention-2 addresses PG&E’s failure to adequately consider the airborne environmental impacts of a spent fuel pool accident caused by an earthquake.


Environmental Contention-4 concerns PG&E’s failure to discuss the cost-effectiveness of measures to mitigate the environmental impacts of an attack on the Diablo Canyon reactor during the license renewal term. While PG&E seems to assume that the consequences of a terrorist attack would be the same as those caused by acts of nature or mechanical failure, SLOMFP points out that “a significant portion of mitigative measures for an attack would consist of steps for preventing attackers from accessing or intentionally harming a facility.”

Download SLOMFP legal brief.