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Nuclear bill focuses on money 

State Democrats recently proposed legislation requiring the operators of coastal nuclear reactors to disclose all projected costs before passing relicensing costs on to ratepayers.

Senate Bill 418, if passed, would require the state’s two coastal nuclear operators to assess and publish all projected costs that may flow from a decision to relicense the aging reactors. The bill is sponsored by the ratepayer advocacy group Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility.

Sources of possible unforeseen costs that sponsors specifically addressed include equipment failures and shutdowns, possible expansion of local emergency planning zones, implementation of environmentally friendly cooling systems that federal law may require, long-term storage for spent nuclear fuels, and the need for seismic studies and retrofits.

Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) introduced SB 418 to committee on Feb. 28. The proposed legislation took a step toward clearing committee on April 8 and is scheduled for a senate hearing on April 16.

“The public deserves to know the full story and to have these questions asked and answered,” Jackson wrote in a statement. “We need some way to judge whether going forward with a nuclear power plant is the best and most cost-effective route to supplying our energy needs.”

Sponsors explained that the proposed law would only go into effect if one of the two coastal operators applies to the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a license renewal, and also asks the California Public Utilities Commission for permission to adopt a rate increase to cover those licensing costs. Consequently, the bill would impose no requirements on current plant operations.

The operation licenses for Pacific Gas & Electric’s Diablo Canyon and Southern California Edison’s San Onofre are set to expire in 2025 and 2022, respectively.

PG&E plans to oppose the bill. Legislative spokesperson Lynsey Paulo called some of the bill’s requirements unnecessary since the utility already provides cost projections to the various state licensing agencies.

 “Our concern is about redundant reporting not being a good use of our customers’ money,” Paulo said.

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