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Lawmakers push for reviews of California's 2 nuclear plants

March 21, 2011 |  9:44 am

People stroll along the water at San Onofre State Beach, where the twin domes of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station can be seen a short distance away.

As the crisis at Japan's Fukushima reactors unfolds, state and federal officials have begun pushing for reviews of California's two commercial nuclear plants, which sit near powerful fault lines.

The two plants supply nearly 15% of the state's electricity. And federal regulators have found troubling safety violations at both Southern California Edison's 2,340-megawatt San Onofre nuclear plant near San Clemente and Pacific Gas & Electric's 2,240-megawatt Diablo Canyon facility on the Central Coast.

"The fundamental question is whether these facilities should be located next to active faults and whether they are operated safely," said state Sen. Sam Blakeslee (R-San Luis Obispo), who holds a doctorate in geophysics. "With what's unfolding in Japan, why would anyone approve a permit for these plants to keep operating until every question is answered?"

The San Onofre nuclear power plant has been cited dozens of times for violations that include failed emergency generators, improperly wired batteries and falsified fire safety data, records show. And in late 2009, inspectors at Diablo Canyon found that safety valves designed to allow cooling water into the reactor core in emergencies had been stuck shut for 18 months.

After the Japan quake, some state and federal lawmakers are questioning whether the two utilities have underestimated the severity of earthquakes that could strike the plants.

"Our two plants need immediate inspections and investigations, and they need to look at the increased risk of serious earthquakes, an increased risk of tsunamis and at the safety cultures at those plants," said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). She noted that more than 7 million people live within 50 miles of San Onofre, while nearly half a million are within that distance from Diablo Canyon.

Read the full story: Calls heat up for reviews of California nuclear plants

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-- Ken Bensinger and David Sarno

Photo: People stroll along the water at San Onofre State Beach, where the twin domes of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station can be seen a short distance away. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

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