SLO Mothers for Peace joins petition on nuclear plant license renewal

The San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace have joined 21 other groups nationwide to petition the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to not renew the operating licenses of any nuclear plant, including Diablo Canyon, until the agency can update is policy for storing spent fuel.

The petition comes in the aftermath of a June 8 U.S. Court of Appeals ruling that the NRC must update its rules on the environmental impacts of storing highly radioactive nuclear waste for the foreseeable future at individual nuclear power plants.

The groups also asked that the agency establish procedures for ensuring that members of the public can comment on the environmental analysis and raise specific concerns about spent fuel storage at individual plants.

“By joining together, they (the petitioners) seek to ensure that the environmental analyses ordered by the U.S. Court of Appeals will be fully applied in each reactor licensing case before operation is permitted, and that they will be given a meaningful opportunity to participate in the decision-making process,” said Mothers for Peace attorney Diane Curran, who wrote the petition.

Diablo Canyon is one of nine power plants with license-renewal requests pending before the NRC, and it has a growing stockpile of spent fuel stored in both pools and dry casks.

The NRC is evaluating the petition and has asked affected plants such as Diablo Canyon to respond by Monday before deciding how to proceed, said Scott Burnell, NRC spokesman. PG&E, which operates Diablo Canyon, is likely to argue that a suspension in relicensing decisions is unnecessary in Diablo Canyon’s case.

“Given the time frame for a decision in the Diablo Canyon license-renewal proceeding, there is ample time for the NRC to complete the rulemaking and therefore no reason to prospectively suspend final licensing decisions,” said Blair Jones, PG&E spokesman.

The petition and court ruling are the latest developments in the nuclear industry’s most vexing problem: there is no permanent place to store spent nuclear fuel. Highly radioactive fuel remains dangerous for hundreds of years after it is removed from a reactor.

Attempts to build a storage repository at Yucca Mountain in the Nevada desert have failed. A federal panel of nuclear scientists has recommended building a geologic repository deep underground, but that solution is decades away.

In the meantime, NRC and nuclear industry maintain that spent fuel can be safely stored at reactor sites until a permanent storage facility becomes available.