UPDATE 1-NRC delays renewal process for PG&E Calif. reactors
* Delay to allow PG&E to conduct seismic study
* PG&E started seismic study prior to Fukushima accident
* Diablo reactor licenses expire in 2024 and 2025 (Updates comment from NRC)
NEW YORK, June 1 (Reuters) - U.S. nuclear regulators agreed to delay the processing of PG&E Corp's (PCG.N) request to extend the licenses of its Diablo Canyon nuclear power reactors in California to give the company more time to conduct a seismic study.
PG&E filed with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for a 20-year renewal of the licenses for the two reactors at Diablo Canyon in November 2009. The original 40-year operating licenses expire in 2024 and 2025.
PG&E was under pressure by California energy regulators and citizen and environmental groups to produce the seismic study before an earthquake and tsunami destroyed the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan in early March. That pressure increased after the Japanese nuclear accident.
On April 10, 2011, PG&E asked the NRC to delay taking final action on the license renewal request to give the company more time to complete a three dimensional seismic study of offshore faults. PG&E told the NRC it expects to finish the study by December 2015.
On May 31, 2011, the NRC agreed to scale back its renewal review. But NRC spokesman Victor Dricks told Reuters the NRC staff had already completed work on the Safety Evaluation Report (SER) and would issue the report soon.
"The plan is to issue the safety report and supplement it if necessary based on any additional information we may receive from PG&E," Dricks said.
SAFETY & ENVIRONMENT
The NRC uses the renewal process to determine how an operator will manage the aging of a reactor. It is a two-step process, requiring safety and environmental reviews.
FACTBOX-U.S. nuclear units seeking license renewal [ID:nN01174392]
The issuance of the safety report will conclude the NRC's safety review unless they need to update the report.
The NRC staff did expect to issue its environmental report, called the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS), in January 2012. Dricks said there was now no date set for the issuance of the environmental report.
"It does not make sense to expend full staff resources on a review that cannot be processed until the future when we expect to get significant additional information," Dricks said.
Dricks could not say when the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB), which is an independent judicial arm of the NRC, would hold a hearing on the four contentions already admitted into the proceeding against the relicensing.
Separately, the owners of the other nuclear power plant in California, San Onofre, are also conducting a seismic study.
Southern California Edison (SCE), a unit of Edison International (EIX.N) of Rosemead, California, which has not yet filed to renew the two reactor licenses at San Onofre, planned to conduct the study before the Fukushima accident.
After Fukushima, SCE filed in April with California state regulators to boost the amount it wants to recover from rate payers for the study to $64 million from a projected $21 million before the Japanese accident. [ID:nN12203465]
The licenses for both reactors at San Onofre expire in 2022. San Onofre is located in San Clemente about 60 miles southeast of Los Angeles. It is owned by SCE (78.21 percent), Sempra Energy's (SRE.N) San Diego Gas & Electric (20 percent) and the City of Riverside (1.79 percent).
Since 2000 when the NRC renewed its first license, the nuclear regulator has renewed 66 of the 104 operating reactors in the United States. ----------------------------------------------------------- PLANT BACKGROUND/TIMELINE STATE: California COUNTY: San Luis Obispo County TOWN: Avila Beach about 183 miles (294 km) northwest
of Los Angeles OWNER(S): PG&E OPERATOR(S): PG&E CAPACITY: 2,240 MW UNIT(S): 1 - 1,122 MW Westinghouse pressurized water
2 - 1,118 MW Westinghouse pressurized water
reactor FUEL: Nuclear COST: $11.556 billion in 2007 U.S. dollars DISPATCH: Baseload TIMELINE: 1968 - Start of plant construction 1985 - Unit 1 enters commercial service 1986 - Unit 2 enters commercial service Nov 2009 - PG&E seeks to renew original 40-year operating
licenses for 20 years Dec 2015 - PG&E to provide NRC with seismic data to allow the
renewal process to continue 2024 - Unit 1 license to expire unless renewed 2025 - Unit 2 license to expire unless renewed (Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Alden Bentley)