This month the NRC restarted the license renewal process for Diablo Canyon, California’s last operational nuclear power plant. Diablo Canyon’s reactors became operational in 1985 and 1986 and currently their licenses are set to expire in 2024 and 2025.
Plant owners, PG&E originally asked the NRC in 2009 to extend the licenses for the two reactors for another 20 years but following the events in Fukushima, Japan, in 2011, the utility asked the agency to suspend the process until it could conduct seismic studies of the site.
These studies are now complete and it was found that the facility was “designed to withstand and perform its safety functions during and after a major seismic event.” As reported by David Baker in the San Francisco Chronicle, the most recent study concluded that Diablo Canyon could withstand the strongest quake likely to hit in 10,000 years and also survive tsunamis generated by offshore quakes or landslides.
According to the NRC’s schedule, the decision on license renewals for the two reactors won’t be made until 2017.
Diablo Canyon’s two units together produce approximately 2,300 net megawatts of carbon-free power, providing nearly 10 percent of all electricity generated in California, and enough energy to meet the needs of more than three million Northern and Central Californians. What makes this plant very unique in the nuclear industry is that it is committed to constantly studying the local geological features and global seismic events to ensure its seismic safety. This commitment is called the Long Term Seismic Program (LTSP) and it is tied to an open-ended licensing agreement, requiring this program to be maintained and evaluated on a regular basis.