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San Onofre nuclear plant operators propose new seismic study

March 30, 2011 |  9:25 am


The operators of the San Onofre nuclear power plant are proposing a multimillion-dollar study that would use new technology to better assess seismic conditions near the complex.

The announcement by Southern California Edison follows calls by state and federal officials in the wake of Japan’s nuclear crisis for comprehensive reviews of the state’s two commercial nuclear power plants.

Edison officials said the study was planned long before the crisis, but officials were now reevaluating the scope of the project in light of recent events.

The study must first be approved by the California Public Utilities Commission, because its cost would be covered by higher rates, said spokesman Gil Alexander.

In recent weeks several elected officials have questioned whether operators of San Onofre, near San Clemente, and the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, on the Central Coast, had underestimated the potential severity of earthquakes near the facilities.

Edison officials said the proposed study would tap into new technology that could lead to a more accurate threat assessment. San Onofre was made to withstand a magnitude 7 quake from a fault five miles away and is protected by a 30-foot seawall, Alexander said.

A study submitted by the utility to the utility commission in February reinforced those specifications, and officials said the plant could continue to operate reliably through its current license period, which expires in 2022.

“All of the best current available data still point in the direction of how the plant was designed,” Alexander said. “San Onofre can protect the public. That’s obviously the bottom line.”


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-- Paloma Esquivel

Photo: San Onofre nuclear power plant. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times