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Nuclear watchdog group Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility, which has distinguished itself for questioning the cost effectiveness rather than safety of nuclear power, is rallying support for Senate Bill 418 authored by state Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson of Santa Barbara with San Diegan Senator Marty Block and Assemblywoman Toni Atkins listed as co-authors and sponsored by the Alliance.

According to an executive summary of SB 418:

SB 418 will require that when an electrical corporation operating a nuclear generating facility greater than 50 megawatts submits an application, or reopens an existing application, with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) asking for ratepayer funding to undertake a license renewal process from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), it shall provide to the CPUC a detailed study of project needs and costs in order to assess the cost of the continued operation of the relicensed nuclear fission thermal powerplant.

The Alliance and involved legislators say that many costs, such as the replacement of steam generators such as the faulty ones that have sidelined San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station for over a year, or compliance with updated environmental standards, as well as risks including the indefinite storage of radioactive waste on power plant grounds, growing population centers near nuclear reactors, and the location of previously unmapped earthquake faults near reactors, were not considered when the state’s nuclear power plants were originally approved in the 1960s.

The state’s two remaining plants at San Onofre and at Diablo Canyon along California’s central coast would need “to make a case for their continued value in providing reliable and affordable power,” requiring these issues to be addressed. The CPUC would also be charged with verifying the validity of plant operators’ claims as part of the process.

San Onofre’s operating license expires in 2022, while the twin reactors at Diablo Canyon are scheduled to go offline in 2024 and 2025. Both Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric, respectively the operators of the two remaining nuclear power plants in California (other reactors in Humboldt Bay and near Sacramento have ceased generating electricity), are currently eyeing 20 year license extensions through the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, though the pressing concern at San Onofre of late has been to simply get back online for the duration of its current license term.

The latest amended version of SB 418 was presented to the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee on Monday, April 1.

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