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Scheduled three-day drill begins at San Onofre nuclear plant

April 12, 2011 | 10:19 am

San Onofre nuclear power plant

The operators of the San Onofre nuclear power plant are starting a drill Tuesday to test the ability of the facility and local, state and federal agencies to respond to a radiological emergency.

The three-day exercise by Southern California Edison will simulate a radioactive release from the plant into surrounding communities, said Tina Walker, a spokeswoman for the California Emergency Management Agency.

Nuclear emergency sirens will sound during the drill, which will be overseen and evaluated by state and federal disaster officials, she said.

The simulation was long-scheduled and is required every two years at every commercial nuclear plant in the nation, officials said. But it has garnered more interest due to the Japanese nuclear crisis that followed last month’s earthquake and tsunami.

“The message here is that nuclear power plants and the communities surrounding them spend a lot of time preparing and testing their emergency response plans,” said Victor Dricks, a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

State and federal officials have called for comprehensive reviews of California’s two commercial nuclear power plants in response to the events in Japan.

Southern California Edison last month proposed a multimillion-dollar study that would use new technology to better assess seismic conditions near the northern San Diego County complex.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will hold a public meeting Friday in San Juan Capistrano to review initial observations from this week’s drill. The full evaluation will not be available for several months.


San Onofre nuclear plant operators propose new seismic study

--Tony Barboza

Photo: A containment structure at the San Onofre nuclear power plant near San Clemente. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times