Japan's nuclear crisis magnifies concerns about California's plants

4:30 PM, Mar 15, 2011   |    comments
San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station
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SACRAMENTO, CA - Two weeks before an earthquake triggered damage at several Japan nuclear power facilities, 10 California lawmakers sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Energy warning the state's two nuclear power plants may be more susceptible to earthquakes than previously thought.

In 2008, the U.S. Geological Survey discovered Diablo Canyon power plant was built directly on top of a earthquake fault line and the San Onofre plant in San Diego is particularly susceptible to tsunamis after an earthquake. A 30-foot barrier was built to protect San Onofre, but it is unclear whether the plant would even survive an earthquake.

"The San Onofre plant was designed to withstand a 7.0 earthquake and, uh, so, those defenses may not be enough if we have a stronger earthquake," said Bill Magavern, Sierra Club Director.

But the acting director of Cal EMA says researchers with his department say its unlikely that an earthquake as big as the one that hit Japan (9.0 magnitude) would ever hit near California's power plants.

"You're talking in Japan with the severity of that magnitude, it would be similar damages to infrastructure. But our scientists, we are planning for worst-case scenarios and those worst-case scenarios don't suggest that severity of an earthquake," said Acting Secretary Mike Dayton.

Gov. Brown said in any case, there is the question of the best place to build a nuclear power reactor.

"That means the government decides, and people will say well, gee, that will cost us money. But it also will cost us lives if we do it wrong," Brown said.

CTNS and News10/KXTV

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