The California Energy Commission (CEC) produces important policy reports assessing the state of nuclear power issues in California. The following two documents provide some of the most thorough assessments of the issues and are “must reads”:
The IEPR is the Energy Commission’s major comprehensive report, published every other year with “updates” on the interim years. More detailed overall nuclear information is in this 2008 IEPR Update – Chapter 4 (pages 65-81). The 2008 report is more thorough than some of the later year reports and the data has not changed significantly. Current Integrated Energy Policy Reports and other CEC reports can be found on the CEC Energy Policy website. Comparing the 2008 with the current Integrated Energy Policy Reports will show how little progress has been made on critical safety and other serious issues.
See below for details.
As part of the 2008 Integrated Energy Policy Report Update, the Energy Commission developed An Assessment of California’s Nuclear Power Plants: AB 1632 Report, as directed by AB 1632 (Blakeslee, Chapter 722, Statutes of 2006). The report addressed seismic and plant aging vulnerabilities of California’s in-state nuclear plants – Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s Diablo Canyon Power Plant and Southern California Edison’s San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station – including reliability concerns as well as concerns over safety culture, plant performance, and management issues at San Onofre. The AB 1632 Report also recommended additional studies that Pacific Gas and Electric Company and Southern California Edison should undertake as part of their license renewal feasibility studies for the California Public Utilities Commission and directed the utilities to provide a status report on their efforts toward implementing the recommendations in the AB 1632 Report in the 2009 Integrated Energy Policy Report.
Major policy decisions that will be made in the next several years will shape the next three decades of nuclear energy policy in California. An overarching issue with the state’s nuclear facilities is plant license renewal. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission operating licenses for San Onofre Units 2 and 3 are set to expire in 2022, and for Diablo Canyon Units 1 and 2, in 2024 and 2025, respectively. Pacific Gas and Electric announced on November 24, 2009, its intention to file a license renewal application for Diablo Canyon, and Southern California Edison plans to file for license renewal for San Onofre in late 2012.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission license renewal application process determines whether a plant meets its renewal criteria, but not whether the plant should continue to operate. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission specifically states that it “has no role in the energy planning decisions of State regulators and utility officials as to whether a particular nuclear power plant should continue to operate.” It is left to state regulatory agencies to determine whether it is in the best interest of ratepayers and cost effective to continue operation of their state’s nuclear plants.
Although the California Public Utilities Commission does not approve or disapprove license applications filed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, both Pacific Gas and Electric and Southern California Edison must obtain the California Public Utilities Commission’s approval to pursue license renewal before receiving California ratepayer funding to cover the costs of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission license renewal process. The utilities’ submission of license renewal feasibility assessments to the California Public Utilities Commission initiates the California Public Utilities Commission’s license renewal review proceedings. The California Public Utilities Commission proceedings will not only consider energy planning issues and whether continued operation of the nuclear power plants is in the ratepayers’ best interest, but will also consider matters of state jurisdiction such as the economic, reliability, and environmental implications of relicensing.
The California Public Utilities Commission’s General Rate Case Decision 07-03-044 required Pacific Gas and Electric to incorporate the Energy Commission’s AB 1632 assessment findings and recommendations in its license renewal feasibility study and to submit the study to the California Public Utilities Commission no later than June 30, 2011, along with an application on whether to pursue license renewal for Diablo Canyon. Letters on June 25, 2009, from the president of the California Public Utilities Commission to Pacific Gas and Electric and Southern California Edison reiterated the requirement for each utility to complete the AB 1632 Report’s recommended studies, including the seismic/tsunami hazard and vulnerability studies, and report on the findings and the implications of the studies for the long-term seismic vulnerability and reliability of the plants. These studies are necessary to allow the California Public Utilities Commission to properly undertake its obligations to ensure plant and grid reliability in the event that either Diablo Canyon or San Onofre has a prolonged or permanent outage and for the California Public Utilities Commission to reach a decision on whether the utilities should pursue license renewal. However, the utilities’ reports to date indicate they are not on schedule to complete these activities in time for California Public Utilities Commission consideration. In addition, both utilities have Pacific Gas and Electric has indicated objections to providing some of the studies and/or requirements indicated by the AB 1632 Report and the California Public Utilities Commission General Rate Case Decision.
The Energy Commission believes that the comprehensiveness, completeness, and timeliness with which both utilities provide the studies identified in the AB 1632 Report will be a critical part of the California Public Utilities Commission and Nuclear Regulatory Commission reviews of the utilities’ license renewal applications.