On August 4, 2010 a 3-judge panel of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) handed down a decision to accept four of the five Contentions filed by the San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace (SLOMFP) in opposition to Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s (PG&E’s) application for license renewal of the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant. Although the current operating licenses for the two reactors do not expire until 2024/2025, PG&E is asking for permission to operate the units an additional 20 years, until 2044/2045.
In its decision, the ASLB narrowed down some of the Contentions by ruling out some points of law while allowing others to remain. The next step within the legal process is a hearing in which evidence will be heard in support of the four Contentions of the SLOMFP accepted by the ASLB.
According to SLOMFP spokesperson Jane Swanson, “Since 1973 our all-volunteer, local group has used legal processes to force the federal regulators of nuclear plants to better enforce federal laws designed to protect the environment and citizens. Our goal, with the services of our attorney in Washington D.C., Diane Curran, is to ensure that safety issues pertaining to both the reactors and the radioactive wastes at Diablo Canyon are fully studied before the NRC considers PG&E’s application for license renewal.”
A summary of the four Contentions accepted by the ASLB follows:
- 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 ‘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 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 an attack on the Diablo Canyon reactor during the license renewal term.
The one Contention not admitted was SLOMFP’s assertion that PG&E has failed to evaluate the environmental impacts of a terrorist attack on the Diablo Canyon spent fuel pool during the proposed 20-year license extension terms.
The date of the evidentiary hearing or hearings is expected to be known by early September.