FERC dismisses CGNP filing to keep Diablo Canyon open

March 19, 2021, 11:59AMANS Nuclear Cafe

Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. Photo: PG&E

According to ETO Insider, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission this week dismissed a complaint filed in October 2020 from Californians for Green Nuclear Power (CGNP) against multiple agencies regarding the closing of Pacific Gas and Electric’s Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.

In denying the complaint on technical grounds against the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), FERC said that CGNP had “not met its burden under Section 206 of the Federal Power Act.” The remaining complaints against North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC), the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the California State Water Resources Control Board (CSWRCB), and California State Lands Commission (CSLC) were dismissed on the grounds that they “are not proper respondents.”

The complaint: In its filing, CGNP claimed that CAISO, CPUC, CSWRCB, and CSLC violated federal reliability standards for the bulk power system “through the CPUC’s approval of the plan to close Diablo Canyon … without first properly analyzing the adverse bulk electric system and adverse bulk natural gas system consequences, in light of known California-specific hazards.”

In addition, the complaint charged that NERC and WECC “failed to conduct proper oversight or enforce NERC’s reliability standards that will be violated by removing [Diablo Canyon] from the California electric grid.”

One of CGNP’s major concerns involves the state’s natural gas transmission and storage system. According to the complaint, because some 60 percent of California’s dispatchable in-state bulk electric generation system is powered by natural gas, “the reliability of California’s bulk electrical system is tightly coupled to the reliability of California’s natural gas bulk transmission and storage system. … There are present reliability challenges to [the latter system] that are a consequence of its vulnerability to sudden earthquake motions and slow aseismic (without an earthquake) creep caused by the relative motion of Earth’s crustal plates in California.”

Background: Located near Avila Beach, Calif., Diablo Canyon houses two four-loop Westinghouse pressurized water reactors; Unit 1, a 1,138-MWe PWR, began commercial operation in May 1985, while the 1,151-MWe Unit 2 started providing power in March of the following year.

In June 2016, PG&E announced that it had reached an agreement with organized labor and environmental organizations to increase investment in energy efficiency and storage, as well as renewables, and to close Diablo Canyon upon the expiration of the reactors’ operating licenses—November 2024 for Unit 1 and August 2025 for Unit 2.

PG&E’s application to close the plant was approved by the CPUC in January 2018, and in March of that year the utility notified the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that it was withdrawing its 2009 application for license extension.

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