Operator says it will resubmit application by end of year Diablo Canyon is California’s only operating commercial nuclear power station. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has turned down a request from operator Pacific Gas & Electric to reopen its 2009 application to extend the operating licences of the Diablo Canyon nuclear station’s two reactors, which are to shut down in 2024 and 2025.

In October 2022, PG&E asked the NRC to resume consideration of an application initially submitted in 2009 to extend the station’s life. That application was later was withdrawn after PG&E announced plans in 2016 to shut down the reactors.

In September 2022, California legislators had voted to extend the life of the station by five years as protection against possible blackouts – provided the federal government pays much of the cost. That effectively meant the utility’s 2016 deal to close the facility could be cancelled.

The legislation said PG&E will receive a $1.4bn (€1.2bn) loan to keep Diablo Canyon operational until October 2030, but the loan is contingent upon the company receiving money from the US Department of Energy to pay the state back under a $6bn federal programme to help struggling nuclear plants.

Newsom said the station should continue to operate beyond the scheduled 2025 closure date to provide more time for the state to build additional, primarily renewable energy power generation facilities.

PG&E then asked federal regulators to support keeping Diablo Canyon online. In November the Biden administration announced the approval of up to $1.1bn in conditional funding to keep the facility operational.

PG&E Has Been ‘Planning For This Possibility’

The NRC staff has now rejected the idea of resuming 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 a 24 January letter to PG&E signed by Lauren Gibson, chief of the NRC’s Licence Renewal Projects Branch.

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.

PG&E has continued to say the facility is safe, as has the NRC. The utility, though, has deferred maintenance at the site in anticipation of its 2025 closure. There have not been any publicly disclosed estimates of the cost to keep the reactors running beyond that date.

Diablo Canyon, which supplies about 9% of California’s electricity, is the state’s only operating commercial nuclear power station.

Diablo Canyon has two Westinghouse pressurised water reactors. Unit 1, a 1,138-MW PWR, began commercial operation in May 1985, while the 1,118-MW Unit 2 started providing power in March 1986.

Date: Friday, 27 January 2023
Original article: nucnet.org/news/nrc-rejects-review-of-2009-nuclear-station-operating-extension-1-4-2023