California Nuclear Plants Are Safe: Officials

Chances of 9.0 earthquake, large tsunami are very low
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 15, 2011 9:30 AM CDT
In Japan Earthquake Aftermath, Officials Reassure Californians: Little Risk of 9.0 Quake, Large Tsunami, or Nuclear Plant Crisis
In this March 1, 2010 file photo, the San Onofre nuclear power plant is seen here in north San Diego County, Calif.   (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi,File)

As Californians worry that their state might be next, officials are reassuring them that the specific combination of earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis that hit Japan is very unlikely there. Though one of the state’s two nuclear power plants was only built to withstand a 7.0 quake and the other a 7.5, experts believe the highest possible quake at nearby faultlines would be in the low 7s, not the 8.9 that occurred in Japan, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Additionally, because there is no offshore subduction zone (an area where one plate slides under a second), a tsunami as large as the one that hit Japan is also unlikely. Even if a smaller tsunami hits, the Diablo Canyon plant is 85 feet above sea level on a bluff, and the San Onofre plant is protected by a 30-foot-high “tsunami wall.” Both plants have advanced cooling systems that can run even if power is lost. And, says a Southern California Edison rep, "We will comb through the details of [Japan’s] emergency very carefully and whatever lessons can and should be applied here will be noted.” (More earthquake stories.)

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