License Renewal Process

PG&E is seeking 20-year license extensions for each unit to ensure the long term availability of a valuable source of safe, clean, affordable and reliable electricity for more than 3 million northern and central California homes.

While the licensing process is clearly defined, the time required to complete this process is not easy to predict. For that reason, we believe it is prudent to initiate the process now to assure we will have sufficient time to meet our obligations of providing reliable, affordable and clean power.

For additional information about license renewal, visit the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) License Renewal page.

The full Diablo Canyon license renewal application can also be found on the NRC’s site.

Overview

Based on the Atomic Energy Act, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issues licenses for commercial power reactors to operate for up to 40 years and allows these licenses to be renewed for up to another 20 years. A 40-year license term was selected on the basis of economic and antitrust considerations, not technical limitations.

The decision whether to seek license renewal rests entirely with nuclear power plant owners, and typically is based on whether the power plant can meet NRC requirements and the utility’s economic situation. There are 104 reactors in the U.S. originally licensed to operate for 40 years. To date, the NRC has approved license renewal for 48 reactors.

The NRC has established a license renewal process that can be completed in a reasonable period of time with clear requirements to assure safe plant operation for up to an additional 20 years of plant life.

The Process

First, PG&E submitted an application to the NRC for license extension. The application includes general, environmental and technical information in compliance with federal regulations. The public will be given ample opportunities to comment on the application and share its thoughts with the Commission throughout this multi-year open and transparent process. All public meetings are posted on NRC’s Web site, with key ones being announced in news releases and in the Federal Register.

License renewal process can take between two to four years, including the time to conduct an adjudicatory hearing, if necessary, or approximately 22 months without a hearing.

PG&E Requests Delay

The March 11, 2011, earthquake and subsequent tsunami that damaged the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan has, understandably, raised concerns about the safety of U.S. nuclear facilities. While the lessons from Japan are still emerging, PG&E takes seriously the concerns expressed by its customers and neighbors in the community about the seismic safety characteristics of Diablo Canyon.

That's why PG&E took the unprecedented step of making a formal request with the NRC to delay the final issuance of the plant’s license renewal, if approved, until the company completes 3-D seismic studies in the area and shares the findings with the NRC.

The NRC has agreed to this request, providing a revised license renewal schedule that will allow PG&E to finish these important studies before final action is taken on the license renewal application.

Separately, the NRC also issued its Safety Evaluation Report. Based on site audits and a staff review of PG&E's application, the report concludes that the company is prepared to safely operate Diablo Canyon, should the license extension be approved. In that report, the NRC confirmed that it will consider the results of the seismic studies prior to finalizing a decision on license renewal.

PG&E remains focused on completing three tiers of seismic studies: 3-D high-energy offshore imagery, 2-D on-shore data collection and imagery, and 3-D low-energy offshore work. Four additional seismic sensors will also be placed on the ocean floor to increase the ability to monitor seismic activity.

License Renewal Application filed with CPUC

On January 29, 2009, PG&E filed an application with the California Public Utilities Commission seeking its approval to include the costs of the Diablo Canyon license renewal project in future rates.

On June 9, 2011, PG&E and TURN jointly asked the California Public Utilities Commission to suspend proceedings (PDF, 524 KB) associated with its license renewal funding until the utility's advanced seismic studies are completed and the findings have been submitted to the NRC.

Why is this funding necessary? As the application and supporting testimony make clear, extending Diablo Canyon’s operating licenses for another 20 years will save our customers billions of dollars when compared to the cost of replacing the power created by the plant with alternate generation resources. It also will contribute to a clean environment and provide reliable electricity needed to power our state’s economy. Without Diablo Canyon, it would be virtually impossible for California to meet both its greenhouse gas reduction goals and its projected future energy needs.

Put simply, Diablo Canyon keeps our air clean and our electricity affordable and reliable.

For more information:

License Renewal Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Diablo Canyon seeking to extend its operating licenses?

PG&E is seeking 20-year license extensions for each unit to ensure the long term availability of a valuable source of clean, affordable and reliable electricity for more than 3 million northern and central California homes.

Replacing Diablo Canyon’s more than 18,000 gigawatt-hours of electricity annually would require California residents and businesses to invest in additional energy infrastructure. By not extending Diablo Canyon's licenses, it would remove an existing clean, safe, affordable and reliable source of electricity.

While the licensing process is clearly defined, the time required to complete this process is not easy to predict. For that reason, we believe it is prudent to initiate the process now to assure we will have sufficient time to meet our obligations of providing reliable, affordable and clean power.

Most U.S. nuclear power plants, like Diablo Canyon, received an initial 40-year operating license from the NRC. Many nuclear plant owners across the country are seeking a license extension for their sites for several reasons:

  • Unlike the volatile price spikes for fossil fuels (such as oil, coal or natural gas), the price of nuclear fuel is quite stable;
  • Nuclear power plants emit almost zero greenhouse gasses when producing electricity;
  • Nuclear power plants generate large amounts of electricity on a relatively small footprint when compared to the large amounts of property needed for solar or wind farms, and do so 24 hours a day, 7 days a week;
  • Nuclear power plants can easily run for another 20 years, as most have replaced many of their site’s major components over the past few years – for example, Diablo Canyon’s steam generator and reactor vessel head replacement projects.

Why is Diablo Canyon seeking to extend its operating licenses?

PG&E is seeking 20-year license extensions for each unit to ensure the long term availability of a valuable source of clean, affordable and reliable electricity for more than 3 million northern and central California homes.

Replacing Diablo Canyon’s more than 18,000 gigawatt-hours of electricity annually would require California residents and businesses to invest in additional energy infrastructure. By not extending Diablo Canyon's licenses, it would remove an existing clean, safe, affordable and reliable source of electricity.

While the licensing process is clearly defined, the time required to complete this process is not easy to predict. For that reason, we believe it is prudent to initiate the process now to assure we will have sufficient time to meet our obligations of providing reliable, affordable and clean power.

Most U.S. nuclear power plants, like Diablo Canyon, received an initial 40-year operating license from the NRC. Many nuclear plant owners across the country are seeking a license extension for their sites for several reasons:

  • Unlike the volatile price spikes for fossil fuels (such as oil, coal or natural gas), the price of nuclear fuel is quite stable;
  • Nuclear power plants emit almost zero greenhouse gasses when producing electricity;
  • Nuclear power plants generate large amounts of electricity on a relatively small footprint when compared to the large amounts of property needed for solar or wind farms, and do so 24 hours a day, 7 days a week;
  • Nuclear power plants can easily run for another 20 years, as most have replaced many of their site’s major components over the past few years – for example, Diablo Canyon’s steam generator and reactor vessel head replacement projects.

How does the license extension process work?

First, PG&E submitted an application to the NRC for license extension. The application includes general, environmental and technical information in compliance with federal regulations. The public will be given ample opportunities to comment on the application and share their thoughts with the Commission throughout this multi-year open and transparent process.

The NRC staff then conducts an extensive top-to-bottom safety and environmental review consisting of thousands-of-hours of analysis and review comprising all critical systems throughout the site.

In the safety review process, there are a number of steps including a thorough review of the application's safety sections, an informal public meeting, and an audit of the plant's management programs and inspections.

For the environmental review, the NRC will conduct public meetings, site audits and prepare an environmental impact statement, which includes public comments.

For more information on the license extension process, you can visit the NRC at www.nrc.gov.

When do Diablo Canyon’s current operating licenses expire?

The licenses expire in 2024 and 2025 respectively for units 1 and 2. Seeking license extension is a multi-year process; yet, this federal procedure will not stop California’s increasing demand for electricity and the rapidly approaching deadline for reaching the state’s ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals.

In 2007, the California Public Utilities Commission concluded it was prudent to know at least 10 years in advance, if 2,200 megawatts of capacity would need to be replaced in order to allow sufficient time for its resource planning purposes.

We believe Diablo Canyon will remain an essential part of the company’s power portfolio, benefitting our customers for an additional 20 years beyond its current operating licenses. And we believe investing in the development and expansion of new sources of clean power will complement the state’s current fleet of nuclear power plants.

Why is extending Diablo Canyon’s licenses necessary?

Although the energy mix that will be in place after Diablo Canyon’s current licenses have expired has yet to be determined, extending Diablo Canyon’s licenses for another 20 years through 2044 and 2045 for units 1 and 2 respectively, will help ensure California will be able to meet the state’s future energy demands with affordable, baseload, clean electricity, while allowing time for newer technologies to more fully develop.

Diablo Canyon provides low cost, carbon-free electricity for more than 3 million northern and central California homes.

Extending Diablo Canyon’s operating licenses for another 20 years is a necessary step toward meeting the state’s ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals and meeting increasing energy demands in California.

As a neighbor of Diablo Canyon, why should I support extending the plant’s licenses?

In addition to providing safe, clean, affordable and reliable electricity, Diablo Canyon is a vital economic engine for San Luis Obispo, if not all of California. As a major employer and purchaser of goods and services, Diablo Canyon has a total economic impact of more than $640 million annually for San Luis Obispo County and another $100 million for the state. The more than $25 million in property taxes paid by Diablo Canyon in fiscal year 2008-2009, helped support municipalities, schools and other crucial public services.

Furthermore, at PG&E, we strive to remain good neighbors to the communities in which we work and live. Diablo Canyon is no exception. Our employees make charitable contributions in excess of $250,000 annually to the community, which funds a wide variety of school programs, senior centers and many other critical community projects.

Yet, not all of the contributions are strictly measured in dollars and cents. Many of Diablo Canyon’s employees volunteer thousands-of-hours of their personal time to after-school athletic programs, environmental organizations, churches and other community organizations.

Why don’t we just invest more money into renewable energy sources like solar and wind instead of nuclear?

Increasing investment in renewable energy sources with a stronger focus on efficiency are important goals, but not enough to ensure we have enough abundant and affordable electricity to power California’s massive energy infrastructure without adding significant amounts of greenhouse gasses into the environment.

Nuclear power is the only realistic option available for generating clean, baseload power, and that is why countries like United Kingdom, France, Italy, Japan and China are investing significant public funds into building their own fleets of nuclear power plants while also backing the development of alternative energy sources.

In fact, even when renewable power technologies are fully developed and ready for widespread implementation, Californians will still need an abundant supply of dependable baseload power for meeting increasing demands, minimizing severe rate increases and ensuring the reliability of the state’s electricity grid.

What will happen if the plant’s licenses are not extended?

If Diablo Canyon is closed, San Luis Obispo County and California will lose a major source of clean, safe, affordable and reliable power, and a vital economic engine.

The plant invests $10 million to $12 million locally each year on goods and services, and in fiscal year 2008-2009, it paid more than $25 million in property taxes. This tax revenue supports municipalities, schools and other crucial public services. Without Diablo Canyon funding, these service providers will have to seek financial assistance from already strapped state and local budgets, which may lead to potential tax increases down the road.

How safe are nuclear power plants?

Nuclear power plants are among the safest, most secure industrial operations in the world. At Diablo Canyon, safety remains every employee’s top priority.

Diablo Canyon and other plants in the U.S. were designed and built with redundant and multiple barriers to prevent radioactive material from escaping during normal operations and during an accident. Put simply, nuclear plants, closely monitored by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, are some of the most secure commercial facilities in the country.

In addition to PG&E’s financial investments into upgrading the site’s infrastructure, Diablo Canyon’s operations and maintenance personnel regularly inspect equipment, analyze critical systems and review human performance – ensuring the health and welfare of site employees and communities we serve throughout the region.

In addition to PG&E’s financial investments into upgrading the site’s infrastructure, Diablo Canyon’s operations and maintenance personnel regularly inspect equipment, analyze critical systems and review human performance – ensuring the health and welfare of site employees and communities we serve throughout the region.

Is nuclear power clean?

Yes. In fact, nuclear energy is the only source of baseload, 24/7 power that produces almost zero greenhouse gas emissions during the generation of electricity.

Diablo Canyon power adds to the region’s energy diversity, reducing dependence on a single source of electricity, such as fossil fuels that produce greenhouse gas emissions.

If California’s nuclear power plants were to cease operating, it would severely impact California’s greenhouse gas reduction goals of reaching 1990 levels by 2020.

Without clean nuclear power, we will not meet this goal.

How does Diablo Canyon produce electricity?

Diablo Canyon is a pressurized water reactor. This means that water, superheated by nuclear energy and pumped under high pressure, creates steam that powers a large turbine, driving the electricity generator, producing electricity.

How can I learn more about Diablo Canyon, nuclear power and the license extension process?

There are many resources available online to help you learn more about Diablo Canyon and the license extension process. Please feel free to visit the Nuclear Regulatory Commission at www.nrc.gov or call the PG&E customer call center at 1-800-PGE-5000.

The Local Economic Impacts of Decommissioning the Diablo Canyon Power Plant

According to a report filed with the California Public Utilities Commission in April, extending Diablo Canyon Power Plant’s operating license for another 20 years would result in significant economic and environmental impacts for San Luis Obispo County and the region, including more jobs, increased revenue for local businesses and public services, steady electricity rates and the continued prevention of greenhouse gas emissions.

PG&E sponsored the study to examine the economic consequences of closing Diablo Canyon on San Luis Obispo and northern Santa Barbara counties. The 23-page report was written by Professor Kenneth D. Riener from the California Polytechnic State University’s Orfalea College of Business and Patrick Mayeda from Productive Impact LLC.

"The loss of DCPP as an employer and key contributor to the economy of San Luis Obispo and northern Santa Barbara counties would have a major impact on the local economy," the report found. "Since DCPP produces about 20 percent of the power PG&E supplies to its customers, and California’s current peak needs already stretched its generation capacity, it will not be easy or inexpensive to replace the lost capacity."

Specific findings include:

  • Diablo Canyon contributed more than $966.8 million annually to San Luis Obispo and northern Santa Barbara counties in 2009 (direct, indirect and induced).
  • Diablo Canyon is the largest private employer in San Luis Obispo County with 1,578 workers and a payroll of $151.8 million in 2009.
  • Over 1,200 highly skilled, highly trained workers and 200 contractors exclusively at the plant site.
  • Largest property taxpayer in San Luis Obispo County - $24 million for the 2009/2010 fiscal year with more than $15 million going to local schools.
  • A major purchaser of goods and services, Diablo Canyon expends $29.1 million annually across the region, directly and indirectly sustaining 3,202 jobs.
  • Diablo Canyon contributes more than $300,000 annually to charities, funding a variety of school programs, senior centers and other vital community projects.
  • PG&E employees have volunteered thousands of hours of their own time at other worthy after-school, athletic, environmental and community organizations.

Read the full report (PDF, 1 MB)

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