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CPUC denies PG&E Diablo funding application 

An administrative law judge dismissed Pacific Gas & Electric’s application to use customer money nearly two years after the application was first filed in an effort to keep the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant operating for another 30 years.

PG&E requested $80 million in ratepayer funding to pay for its federal license renewal for both reactors at Diablo Canyon. On Dec. 21, Robert Barnett, an administrative law judge for the California Public Utilities Commission, the state’s chief energy regulating agency, ruled PG&E’s application shouldn’t be considered until long-awaited seismic studies for the region around the plant are complete.

The dismissal was granted without prejudice, meaning the company may re-file the application once the studies are complete.

“PG&E has known all along what our state expected them to do and has flaunted those orders, wasting time and money in the process,” Rochelle Becker, executive director for the ratepayer advocacy group the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility, said in a prepared statement.

PG&E officials didn’t seem phased by the ruling, despite previous claims that dismissing the application would lay to waste years’ worth of work and essentially make the company restart its application process.

“There’s nothing here,” PG&E spokesman Tom Cuddy told New Times. “It’s simply a ruling that we expected and anticipated, and we plan to continue moving forward with the seismic studies.”

Cuddy said the company is wrapping up the first of three phases of its studies. The next step, the 3-D “high energy” phase, is expected to be completed by the end of 2012, if all necessary offshore permits are obtained within the expected timelines.

Cuddy said PG&E expects all three phases to be complete by 2014, and the studies will then be peer-reviewed before coming back to the CPUC and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

“Nothing is more important and no commitment is more fundamental than the safety of our customers,” Cuddy said.

PG&E has argued that it is cost-effective and in its customers’ best interests to renew the licenses of Diablo’s two reactors for an additional 20 years beyond the current expiration dates. Several advocacy groups filed motions against the company’s request to use ratepayer money for the effort.

Under pressure following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan, PG&E asked the CPUC to “suspend” its application so the utility could complete its long-awaited seismic studies.

But the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility filed a motion with the CPUC to reject the suspension and dismiss the application outright until those studies could be completed and independently peer reviewed.

Licenses for the plant’s two reactors are currently set to expire in 2024 and 2025.

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