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PG&E gets more time for seismic risk analysis of Diablo Canyon's nuclear reactors

Flickr/Tracey Adams

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced Tuseday that it will give Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) two extra months to reevaluate Diablo Canyon's vulnerability to earthquakes.

The federal government said its moving up the dates when most other plants in the nation must complete their seismic safety findings, but the studies for Diablo and other West-Coast plants are being pushed back.

"It is a much more dynamic seismic situation west of the Rockies," said the NRC's Scott Burnell. "So, reactor sites in that area were given more time to develop their updated seismic hazard information, and in the same way they do have little additional time to work on their risk analysis."

Burnell said the Diablo study must now be completed by Sept. 30, 2017 instead of the earlier July 2017 date given to PG&E. He said reviews show fewer U.S. reactors than first thought need in-depth analysis, so the NRC can now shift its focus to those that do.

David Weisman with Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility sees the extra time as an indicator of just how complex the seismic situation is at the San Luis Obispo County power plant.

"What remains to be seen is whether this extra time will be used by the NRC to simply ink their rubber stamps and make any new hazards magically disappear, or will they honestly delineate any of the needed seismic retrofits that could prove to be too costly for PG&E's rate payers to keep this aging plant in operation," said Weisman.

PG&E sent KCBX a statement on Tuesday that said its facility was "built to withstand earthquakes and other natural events" that could occur on the Central Coast. Spokesperson Tom Cuddy said the power company will complete the seismic analysis by the new NRC deadline.