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Coastal Commission backs Diablo Canyon bill

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The California Coastal Commission supports a state bill that would extend the life of an independent commission tasked with reviewing the study of seismic hazards at the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.

The commission unanimously voted May 15 to back the bill, SB 657, which is currently winding its way through the state Legislature. The bill, authored by state Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel), would allow an independent peer review panel to continue its work through January 2025.

The California Public Utilities Commission created the panel in 2010 to fulfill the requirements of prior legislation. The panel consists of representatives from the California Geological Survey, the Seismic Safety Commission, the Energy Commission, the Office of Energy Services, San Luis Obispo County, and the Coastal Commission itself. The members of the panel have spent those years keeping an eye on Pacific Gas & Electric’s own study of potential seismic dangers at the plant, an issue that gained increased public awareness after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011.

“It is set to expire this year, but their work is not yet done,” said Sarah Christie, the commission’s legislative director.

The panel and PG&E have clashed in the past. In 2013, emails surfaced documenting company officials discussing how to rein in or possibly decommission the panel. PG&E spokesman Blair Jones told New Times the company was evaluating the bill.

“We value the [panel] and the role they have played as part of this process. As such, we are giving the bill a serious look and are reviewing the details,” Jones said.

As 2025 draws near, the Coastal Commission will have an important role to play in whether or not the plant is relicensed. According to Christie, the commission has power to review PG&E’s application to re-license Diablo Canyon. The company initially applied to extend its operating license in 2009. That application was later postponed for a number of reasons, including orders from federal regulators for all plants to conduct seismic safety studies.

Christie said the work of the independent panel would be important for the commission when and if PG&E seeks an application for Diablo Canyon in the future.

The bill is currently awaiting a hearing in the state Senate Committee on Energy, Utilities, and Communications.

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