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PG&E delays license renewal application for San Luis Obispo nuclear plant [Updated]

April 11, 2011 |  5:40 pm

This post has been corrected. See the note at the bottom for details.

Pacific Gas & Electric asked federal regulators to hold off on granting them a new license to run the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in Central California until the company can complete a new round of seismic safety studies.

The company, which runs two reactors at the coastal site south of San Luis Obispo, cited "considerable public concern" about nuclear reactors situated in earthquake zones after a massive quake and tsunami crippled the Fuskushima Daichi plant in Japan last month.

PG&E officials, who applied for license renewals in 2009 without completing the studies, said Monday that it would be "prudent" to finish sophisticated, three-dimensional analyses of the area's fault lines before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission makes a decision. If approved, renewed licenses would allow the plant, which opened in the 1980s, to operate until 2045.

Three weeks ago, state Sen. Sam Blakeslee (R-San Luis Obispo) threatened to introduce legislation blocking PG&E's license renewal if the company did not complete the seismic studies first. On Monday, Blakeslee praised PG&E for delaying its license application.

In 2008, the U.S. Geological Survey revealed that it had discovered a previously unknown fault less than a mile from Diablo Canyon. Another fault, about three miles offshore, had been discovered in the early 1970s. Geophysicists are concerned that movement of one fault could trigger an earthquake along the other, potentially compounding any damage to the nuclear plant.

[Corrected, 5 p.m. April 12: A previous headline on this post stated that the renewal application had been withdrawn. It has been delayed.]

-- Jack Dolan