Los Angeles Times

U.S. sharply rejects bid to delay closing Diablo nuclear plant

- associated press

In pointed language, federal regulators rebuffed a request Tuesday from Pacific Gas & Electric Co. that could have smoothed its pathway to securing a longer operating life for the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.

The decision marks the latest skirmish in a longrunnin­g fight over the operation and safety of the decades-old Diablo Canyon plant, which Gov. Gavin Newsom says should keep running beyond a scheduled 2025 closure to ward off possible blackouts as the state transition­s to solar and other renewable sources.

In October, Pacific Gas & Electric asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to resume considerat­ion of an applicatio­n initially submitted in 2009 to extend the plant’s life, which later was withdrawn after PG&E in 2016 announced plans to shut down the plant. Diablo Canyon is the last nuclear power plant operating in California and produces 9% of its electricit­y.

Under existing rules, the operating licenses for the sister reactors expire in 2024 and 2025, at which time they would be forced to close.

The turnaround came in September after the Democratic governor and Legislatur­e voided the 2016 agreement to close the plant and opened the way for PG&E to seek a longer operating run from federal regulators.

The NRC staff bluntly rejected the idea of going back in time to resume considerat­ion of the previous license extension plan, saying that “resuming this review would not be consistent with ... the Principles of Good Regulation,” referring to its guiding values, including independen­ce and openness.

“It would not be effective or efficient for the NRC staff to start the review” without updated informatio­n on the plant’s status and condition, the agency wrote.

In response, PG&E said it would produce a new applicatio­n to extend the plant’s life by two decades — the typical term — by the end of 2023, and had been planning for that possibilit­y.

Diane Curran, an attorney for the anti-nuclear advocacy group Mothers for Peace, said the utility was attempting to “make an end run around a pretty well establishe­d set of regulation­s and policies.”

“What PG&E is asking for is clearly inconsiste­nt with the NRC regulation­s,” Curran added.

Another separate fight is looming over PG&E’s request to allow the plant to continue running beyond its current, authorized term while the federal agency considers the license extensions. The agency did not rule on that request.

Newsom’s decision last year to support a longer operating run for Diablo Canyon shocked environmen­talists and anti-nuclear advocates, since he had once been a leading voice for closing the plant, located on a coastal bluff midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

His turnaround also restarted a long-running debate over seismic safety at the site.

Constructi­on at Diablo Canyon began in the 1960s. Critics say potential shaking from nearby earthquake faults not recognized when the design was first approved could damage equipment and release radiation. PG&E has long said the plant is safe, an assessment the NRC has supported.

 ?? Michael Mariant Associated Press ?? PACIFIC GAS & Electric’s Diablo Canyon nuclear plant in Avila Beach, Calif., is set for closure in 2025.
Michael Mariant Associated Press PACIFIC GAS & Electric’s Diablo Canyon nuclear plant in Avila Beach, Calif., is set for closure in 2025.

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