Although the long-term fate of Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant is unclear, the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission has decided to restart a stalled application to extend the plant’s two operating licenses for another 20 years.
To this end, the agency has scheduled two hearings on Aug. 5 in San Luis Obispo to give the public an opportunity to express any concerns about environmental issues facing the nuclear power plant.
At the hearings, the agency will take public input on what concerns should be addressed in an environmental impact statement it is preparing as part of the license renewal process. Seismic safety issues and the storage of highly radioactive used fuel are expected to be high on the list of concerns.
At both sessions, NRC officials will give an overview of the license renewal process. The rest of the sessions will be devoted to taking public comment.
The plant’s reactor licenses will expire in 2024 and 2025. In 2009, PG&E applied to extend the plant’s licenses to 2044 and 2045. Then the NRC suspended the applications at PG&E’s request in 2011 in order to complete earthquake safety studies required by the state.
Those studies are completed and the NRC and PG&E have determined the plant is seismically safe. In December 2014 and in February 2015, at the request of the NRC, PG&E submitted additional information about the results of the seismic studies and other issues related to license renewal.
Earlier this year, the NRC decided to restart the license renewal process. However, PG&E has not made a decision whether it will pursue the renewal, company spokesman Blair Jones said.
The utility needs more time to study the feedback it has received on the seismic studies from both state and federal regulators, Jones said. It also needs to apply for a determination from the state Coastal Commission that license renewal would be consistent with state environmental laws.
Another issue affecting license renewal is a pending requirement by the State Water Resources Control Board to reduce the impact of the plant’s once-through cooling system on the ocean environment. The system, which draws seawater into the plant for cooling purposes and then returns it to the ocean at a higher temperature, kills ocean organisms and creates an artificial ecosystem offshore.
The state is reviewing a range of possible requirements, including the installation of cooling towers or the preservation of coastal land, but has not decided which one it will require. PG&E is still evaluating the steps it needs to complete this process and does not know when it will make a decision on license renewal, Jones said.
“Overall, PG&E has not made a decision to move forward with license renewal as we continue to evaluate feedback on the seismic studies and the steps needed to obtain state approvals,” he said.
The NRC decided to restart the application review process without a request from PG&E because it has enough information to move forward with application review in a timely manner, said Lara Uselding, NRC spokeswoman.
“The decision to move forward with the review was based on the length of time since the license renewal application was originally submitted, the length of time necessary to complete the review, and the availability of the updated information provided in the December 2014 and February 2015 submittals,” she said.
The NRC estimates that the environmental impact statement for license renewal will be completed in May 2017. A decision could be made any time after that, but no deadline has been set.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will hold two public hearings Aug. 5 on relicensing Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. Here are the details.
Where: Courtyard by Marriott San Luis Obispo, 1605 Calle Joaquin Road in San Luis Obispo
When: The first session is scheduled for 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. The second session is set for 7 to 10 p.m.
More: Written statements may be submitted to the NRC through Aug. 31.