Diablo Canyon license renewal slated for NRC review

December 23, 2023, 11:48AMNuclear News
Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. (Photo: Mike Baird/WikiCommons)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has accepted for review Pacific Gas and Electric’s formal request to extend Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant’s operating licenses for another 20 years.

NRC staff has determined that PG&E has provided sufficient information to formally docket the license extension application and begin detailed safety and environmental reviews, according to a December 19 Federal Register notice.

PG&E applied last month to the NRC to keep the two-unit plant operational beyond the reactors’ current license expiration dates of 2024 and 2025, respectively.

Diablo Canyon’s operating licenses will remain in effect under an exemption to agency regulations until the NRC reviews are complete. The deadline for filing a hearing request on the agency’s decision to review PG&E’s application is March 4, 2024.

A bit of history: The future of Diablo Canyon has been uncertain in recent years. PG&E applied for license renewals in 2009, but then announced in 2016 plans to shutter the plant at the end of the current operating licenses. However, both nuclear energy and environmental advocates have called for continued operations of the 2,200 MWe plant—especially as California’s energy grid saw its highest-ever peak demand during a record-breaking heatwave in 2022.

Also that year, California Gov. Gavin Newsom joined the efforts to delay the closure of Diablo Canyon. Newsom’s administration sought assistance from the federal Civil Nuclear Credit Program to help PG&E continue operating Diablo Canyon. Further, the California Public Utilities Commission agreed earlier this month to extend operations of the plant for an additional five years, to 2030.

She said it: “PG&E remains committed to complying with energy policies to ensure the state has the option to keep [Diablo Canyon] on line past 2025 to ensure electricity reliability as California continues toward its clean energy future,” said Maureen Zawalick, vice president of nuclear business and technical services at PG&E, in response to the NRC moves. “We are grateful for the opportunity to continue providing homes and businesses across California with safe and affordable power.”

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