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Federal agency rejects a PG&E request to make it easier to renew Diablo Canyon's license

The Diablo Canyon Power Plant produces about 9% of the state's energy supply.

The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) yesterday made it harder for Pacific Gas & Electric to keep operating the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant.

The agency, which oversees nuclear power plants, rejected a request from PG&E to resume its review of a renewal license the utility submitted back in 2009. That means PG&E will have to submit another renewal license instead of re-using the old one, which they withdrew in 2018 after deciding to decommission the plant.

Now that the state legislature and federal government have approved $1.4 billion to PG&E to extend the plant’s life, the utility will now have to resubmit its license application to be able to do so. That will likely take many months, adding to a long list of actions PG&E will have to take to extend Diablo Canyon’s life.

In an October letter to the NRC, PG&E said it is in the “public interest” to resume review of the old license renewal application (LRA) because it would ensure that the plant is able to keep meeting “the electricity demands of the residents of California.”

“PG&E offers that resuming review of the LRA and confirming timely renewal protection for the existing DCPP operating licenses is lawful, precedented, prudent under these special circumstances, would not present any undue risk to public health and safety, and is consistent with the common defense and security.”

The NRC’s denial of that request was met with approval from people on both sides of the nuclear energy debate.

Central Coast Congressman Salud Carbajal supported Diablo Canyon’s extension, but has made clear his concerns that it is done safely and responsibly.

Rachel Showalter
Activists gathered in front of San Luis Obispo Superior Court last December to fight to delay the closure of the Diablo Canyon Power Plant.

“The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s decision this week reflects the need for thorough review before approving additional years of operation beyond its current license,” Carbajal said in a press release. “This ruling affirms that corners cannot be cut when it comes to nuclear safety.”

Groups totally opposed to nuclear energy also praised the decision.

Anti-nuclear advocacy group San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace is one of those. In a press release, the group’s attorney Diane Curran called it “a correct and faithful application of NRC regulations and policy for fair, efficient and transparent decision-making.”

The organization strongly opposes Diablo Canyon’s extension and lobbies for it to close as soon as possible, primarily for safety concerns around possible accidents they believe could lead to catastrophe.

PG&E maintains that the plant is safe and reliable, and it has no history of safety failures.

The California Public Utilities Commission will hold two public hearings on PG&E’s requests related to the Nuclear Decommissioning Trust, which would help offset the costs of decommissioning once that time comes.

The first meeting is virtual tomorrow (Thursday) January 26 at 6p.m. The second meeting will be held in-person at the San Luis Obispo County Chambers on Monterey Street in SLO at 6p.m. on January 31. More information is online at

Benjamin Purper came to KCBX in May of 2021 from California’s Inland Empire, where he spent three years as a reporter and Morning Edition host at KVCR in San Bernardino. Dozens of his stories have aired on KQED’s California Report, and his work has broadcast on NPR's news magazines, as well. In addition to radio, Ben has worked as a newspaper reporter and freelance writer.
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