San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace files protest over Diablo

Anti-nuclear activists want to be declared an intervener in the license renewal process

dsneed@thetribunenews.comMarch 28, 2010 

The anti-nuclear group San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace has filed five formal protests over plans to extend the two operating licenses at Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant for 20 more years.

In filings with the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission this week, the activist group asked that it be declared an intervener in the license renewal proceedings and submitted five reasons why renewal should not be granted.

Mirroring extensive public comment submitted to the agency at recent license renewal workshops, four of the five protests, called contentions, deal with the threat earthquakes pose to the safety of the plant. The fifth contention deals with the ability of plant operators to deal with aging components, given the fact that the plant was built largely in the 1970s.

One of the earthquake contentions deals with the threat of the newly discovered Shoreline Fault just offshore of the plant. Another argues that a radioactive fire would break out if cooling water drained from the plant’s spent fuel storage pools in the event of a large earthquake.

Plant owners Pacific Gas and Electric Co. are reviewing the contentions, spokesman Kory Raftery said. The utility has 30 days to respond. An adjudicatory body within the NRC, called the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, will review the contentions and schedule hearings for those that it deems valid.

Jane Swanson, Mothers for Peace spokeswoman, said the group has been granted intervener status in previous proceedings and is almost sure to get that designation this time around. It gives the group legal standing in the relicensing proceedings and also gives it greater leverage to file lawsuits if the agency does not meet its demands.

However, she is doubtful that the group will be able to stop license renewal altogether. The process typically takes at least two years to complete.

“I do think that we have a good chance of the NRC placing extra requirements on Diablo Canyon so that if it does operate for those additional years, it will do so in a safer manner than it otherwise would have,” Swanson said.

Reach David Sneed at 781-7930.

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