Diablo Canyon Relicensing Possibly Delayed for Years

PG&E’s efforts to re-license the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant in Avila Beach for an additional 20 years was dealt what could be a two- to four-year delay by the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, a quasi-judicial board operated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to adjudicate appeals by members of the public.

The Atomic Safety Board announced it would delay hearing an appeal filed by Mothers for Peace against the re-licensing application pending completion and review of high tech 3D offshore seismic studies to better define the potential threat posed by new seismic fault lines discovered 300 yards off the coast from the nuclear power plant. Based on PG&E’s initial schedule, the Atomic Safety board could have considered the matter as soon as this August.

Now, that agency indicates it won’t begin its proceedings for 52 months. In light of the nuclear disaster now unfolding in Japan after the massive quake and tsunami, PG&E has agreed to hold its re-licensing application in abeyance pending completion of new seismic studies. The NRC — under intense political pressure from Senators Diane Feinstein, Barbara Boxer and Congresswoman Lois Capps — agreed to hold off processing the application. Diablo Canyon’s current operating licenses don’t expire until 2024 and 2025.

Mothers for Peace had opposed the application even before the Japanese quake, arguing that the potential seismic threat posed by the new fault — discovered two years ago — was not properly understood.

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