A panel of Nuclear Regulatory Commission judges has granted hearings on four of five protests filed by the San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace against license renewal of Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.
The ruling does not stop the license renewal process. However, it will take at least a year for the panel of three judges, called an Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, to issue final rulings, said Victor Dricks, NRC spokesman.
“Within the next two months, the board will issue a scheduling order which will lay out what happens next,” he said.
Kory Raftery, spokesman for plant owner, Pacific Gas and Electric Co., said the utility is aware of the 119-page ruling and is reviewing it to decide whether to file an appeal.
“License renewal is a long and rigorous process with many opportunities for public involvement,” he said. “We will continue to comply fully with the renewal process.”
Jane Swanson, spokeswoman for Mothers for Peace, said the group is pleased that the board found the bulk of their protests, called contentions, to be valid. It is unlikely that the board will deny PG&E’s license renewal application; however, it may require that the utility take additional steps to safeguard the plant.
“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,” Swanson said.
The board granted hearings on a broad range of issues regarding license renewal and the continuing operation of the plant. It also narrowed the scope of several of the contentions. They are:• The adequacy of the analysis by PG&E of the earthquake risks to the plant by the recently discovered Shoreline Fault, just offshore of the plant.
• The adequacy of PG&E’s environmental analysis on the effects of airborne contamination from the plant’s spent fuel pools caused by an earthquake.
• The adequacy of the analysis by PG&E on the cost-effectiveness of measures to mitigate the environmental impacts of a terrorist attack on the plant during the license renewal period.
• The ability of PG&E to manage the effects of aging on the plant given ongoing problems documented by NRC inspectors at the plant of identifying and solving problems.
The board rejected a fifth contention of Mothers for Peace which also dealt with the environmental impacts of a terrorist attack on the plant.
Preparation of an environmental analysis covering license renewal as well as a safety report will continue. PG&E and Mothers for Peace will have opportunities to file additional exhibits in support of their respective cases.
These filings and other proceedings may require that local hearings of the board be held. The process will culminate with final hearings in San Luis Obispo on each of the four valid contentions. No dates for those hearings have been set.
“Based on the experience of the last six years, the board typically has taken one day to hear each contention submitted,” Dricks said. “It will be a year or two before the final hearings occur.”
In November, PG&E applied to renew the licenses of Diablo Canyon’s two reactors for an additional 20 years. If granted, the extended licenses would expire in 2044 and 2045.
Reach David Sneed at 781-7930.