Diablo Canyon upgrade to be discussed by PG&E, nuclear regulators

Federal nuclear regulators will hold a daylong meeting Thursday with PG&E officials to discuss the technical aspects of upgrading Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant’s controls and instrumentation from analog to digital.

The meeting will be from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at PG&E’s community center at 6588 Ontario Road, just south of San Luis Obispo. The meeting will be a technical discussion between the utility and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, but the public can observe and will have an opportunity to ask questions.

PG&E is considering but has not yet applied for permission to upgrade the circuitry that controls equipment that activates reactor shutdowns and other safety systems in the event of a malfunction. If PG&E applies for the upgrade, a license amendment from the NRC will be required.

If the agency approves a request to do the upgrade, Diablo Canyon would be one of the few plants in the country to convert from analog to digital controls for its reactor protection system, NRC officials said.

Diablo Canyon’s circuitry reflects what was installed in the 1970s and ’80s, which is when the plant was under construction and began operation.

This meeting comes a week after the federal agency held a meeting in San Luis Obispo to discuss the results of a safety investigation as part of Diablo Canyon’s license renewal request. The inspection looked at how well the utility is dealing with the plant’s aging components.

The agency determined that the utility’s handling of aging components allows the relicensing application to proceed. The agency’s final safety evaluation report is scheduled to be issued in May.

“Through detailed and extensive reviews of aging management programs, walk-downs of plant equipment, and reviews of equipment history, the team determined that the applicant had taken or planned actions to manage the effects of aging for structures, systems and components as identified in their application,” summarized the inspection report.

Nuclear-power opponents remain unconvinced. Jane Swanson, spokeswoman for San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace, said persistent problem-solving issues at the plant call into question the ability of PG&E to safely operate the plant over the next 34 years.

“Unless and until that can be accomplished, license renewal is not justified,” she said.

If PG&E’s license renewal request is granted, the life of the plant will be extended to 2045. Sixty-one of the nation’s 104 nuclear reactors have had their operating licenses renewed.

Reach David Sneed at 781-7930.

Meeting Thursday

Nuclear regulators and PG&E officials will discuss converting Diablo Canyon’s controls to digital from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday. The meeting will be at the PG&E community center, 6588 Ontario Road.