Supervisors request delay for Diablo relicensing

2010-03-10T00:00:00Z Supervisors request delay for Diablo relicensingBy April Charlton/Senior Staff Writer Santa Maria Times

The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors are requesting a delay in the relicensing for Diablo Canyon Power Plant.

With a 3-2 vote Tuesday, the supervisors approved sending a letter to the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission asking that the nuclear power plant’s license renewal be postponed until seismic studies are complete.

“This isn’t about (being) pro-nuke, anti-nuke and the politics involved,” said 3rd District Supervisor Adam Hill. “It’s about process. I want the citizens to have faith in the process the NRC has.”

Hill, whose district includes the nuclear power plant, brought the item to the supervisors because he believes it is the board’s obligation to ask the NRC to stop the renewal process and incorporate findings of the proposed seismic studies into the procedures.

Federal nuclear regulators currently aren’t requiring that the results of the studies be part of the licensing renewal application process for Diablo Canyon.

Pacific Gas and Electric Co., which owns and operates Diablo Canyon, has proposed studying the ocean floor around the power plant and creating three-dimensional maps to learn more about earthquake potential.

However, electric company officials oppose delaying the renewal process for any length of time because they say it will increase costs in the long run.

John Shoals, PG&E government relations representative, said the renewal process is timely and the electric company only has a small window of opportunity to complete it or be delayed for several years by federal regulators.

“It’s not as simple as ‘Let’s stop this and get more information,’” Shoals said.

Late in 2008, a new fault — the Shoreline Fault — was discovered less than a mile offshore, near Diablo Canyon. The fault has the potential to trigger a 6.5-magnitude earthquake. The power plant is designed to withstand a 7.5-magnitude temblor.

The new studies that PG&E wants to undertake with ratepayer funding would determine, in part, whether the newfound Shoreline Fault intersects the Hosgri Fault, which was discovered when the plant was constructed.

Fault locations offshore of Diablo Canyon, activity rate and the spatial extent of those faults also would be part of the proposed high-tech studies.

The studies, if approved for funding by the California Public Utilities Commission, are expected to take two to three years to complete.

Supervisors Katcho Achadjian and Frank Mecham voted against sending the letter to the NRC.

The NRC has said it will rule on requests for delay by the end of the month.

If Diablo Canyon’s relicensing application is approved, the plant’s operation would be extended for another 20 years past the current operating licenses. One of the reactor’s license expires in 2024 and the other in 2025.ꆱ

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