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California to Resume Diablo Canyon Hearings

Utilities commission will consider extending facility's life; opponents cite seismic concerns

California officials will mull the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant’s future in early July, during the first public hearing scheduled since a Japanese nuclear power plant began melting down more than two months ago.

To continue operating Diablo Canyon from 2025 until 2045, Pacific Gas & Electric needs approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a federal agency. To continue selling electricity produced by the facility, the company also requires approval from the California Public Utilities Commission.

The CPUC’s first public hearing on a bid by PG&E to charge its customers $85 million to fund Diablo Canyon license renewal efforts since hearings were postponed following the Fukushima nuclear tragedy will be held July 7 in San Francisco, the agency announced.

During the hearing, a CPUC administrative law judge is expected to consider an effort by Californians for Renewable Energy, a non-profit watchdog organization that frequently fights PG&E over environmental and safety issues, to block an application by PG&E to bill customers $85 million to fund Diablo Canyon relicensing efforts.

CARE's says its request is based largely on seismic safety concerns at the shorefront facility in San Luis Obispo County. The power plant operates within hundreds of feet of the Shoreline Fault, which was discovered several years ago. PG&E expects to complete a study into the potential impact of an earthquake along the fault by 2015.

CARE’s letter to the CPUC quotes an April 11 press release published by PG&E saying it asked the NRC to delay issuing the plant’s needed operating permits until the seismic studies are complete. The following day, PG&E sent a letter to the NRC asking it to push ahead with license renewal efforts but delay issuing actual permits until the seismic studies are complete.

“I don’t think they can go forward with their relicensing application when they’ve asked the NRC to delay,” CARE President Michael Boyd said. “The reason they’ve given the NRC for delaying is their seismic studies.”

PG&E attorneys say the company still needs the $85 million, despite its request for the NRC to delay issuing operating permits.

“PG&E will be expending resources and incurring legitimate and reasonable expenses,” the company wrote in a letter to the CPUC. “If PG&E learns anything that may impact the safe operation of the plant, PG&E will address the issue immediately.”

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