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Diablo safety concerns raised at NRC hearing

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Judges from the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, the independent trial-level adjudicatory body of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, heard arguments from attorneys of San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace (SLOMFP) and Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) regarding the pros and cons of license renewal for Diablo Canyon power plant on May 26.

SLOMFP attorney Diane Curran opened the hearing with a summary of the positions of the watchdog group, arguing that recent inspection reports show a pattern of inefficiency related to safe operation and aging of the plant. PG&E argued that many issues raised by Curran weren’t relevant to relicensing issues.

The current operating licenses for the two reactors at Diablo Canyon are set to expire in 2024 and 2025, respectively. PG&E has applied to continue operating the two reactors through 2045.

“It doesn’t take 11 years to do a license application,” SLO Mothers for Peace spokeswoman Jane Swanson told New Times.

The five contentions raised by SLOMFP are PG&E’s alleged failure to demonstrate the ability to safely manage aging of the plant; the lack of up-to-date seismic studies in the application given the 2008 discovery of the Shoreline Fault; PG&E’s alleged failure to address airborne environmental impacts as required by the National Environmental Policy Act; the environmental impacts of an attack on the Diablo Canyon spent fuel pool; and the cost-effectiveness of mitigating environmental impacts of an attack on the Diablo Canyon reactor during the license renewal term.

Attorneys for PG&E argued that each issue of contention is reviewed on an ongoing basis by the utility and isn’t limited to license renewal.

Citing plant inspection reports from the last two years, members of the three-judge panel told PG&E that the competency of a licensee is in fact a statutory issue for relicensing.

“That is your burden,” panel judge Alex Karlin told PG&E. “In this case there’s allegations based on inspection reports that raise a question of whether your agency will adequately manage factors of aging.”

The board is expected to make a ruling on which of the SLOMFP contentions they will accept in late July. Should they accept any of the contentions, further hearings are expected to be scheduled sometime in October.

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