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San Onofre Nuclear Station Is Safe, Official Says

People should feel assured about San Onofre’s ability to withstand the largest tsunamis and earthquakes that the area around the power plant could produce, according to Southern California Edison spokesman Chris Abel.

A Southern California Edison spokesman on Wednesday said officials with the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station near Lake Elsinore and Wildomar are doing everything possible to ensure the facility can hold its own against Mother Nature.

During a Chamber of Commerce networking breakfast in San Juan Capistrano, SCE spokesman Chris Abel said that officials at the San Onofre plant are closely examining the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s latest safety recommendations for American nuclear power plants.

“That’s a process that the entire nuclear industry is going through right now,” Abel told the approximately 30 people gathered at the Vintage Steakhouse in San Juan Capistrano.

The power station is jointly owned by SCE, San Diego Gas & Electric, and the city of Riverside, according to SCE.

creating a tsunami that caused widespread devastation and damage to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant -- enough to cause three reactors to melt down. 

After investigating the incident, an NRC task force released a list of recommendations for the nation's nuclear power plants, and Abel said Southern California Edison officials are looking at the recommendations.

“There will be lessons learned,” Abel said. “But it’s going to take a while.

“To give you a frame of reference,” he said, “after Three Mile Island, it took about a year and a half before they really determined what the recommendations were.”

However, Abel said, people should feel assured about San Onofre’s ability to withstand the largest tsunamis and earthquakes that the area around the power plant could produce.

The San Onofre plant is located less than 25 air miles from Lake Elsinore and Wildomar.

According to Abel, the San Onofre facility can take double the maximum amount of peak ground acceleration that local fault lines produce.

As for tsunamis, the latest research shows that the largest wave that nearby conditions could produce would be between 19 to 22 feet, according to Abel.

A 30-foot wall and the reactor's location of 50 feet above the sea, more than compensates for that, Abel said.

 “We have backup system upon back up system upon backup system,” Abel said.

At the end of a presentation, when Abel gave an overview of the plant’s inner workings and environmental mitigation efforts, he took questions from the audience.

After an attendee asked about the plant’s security force, Abel said the security personnel are well trained.

“We spare absolutely no expense on technology or their training,” Abel said. “Plus, we have the resources of Camp Pendleton behind us if we need it.”

Another attendee asked how the plant, built in the 1970s, compares with plants constructed with newer technology.

“They [the reactors] were built back in that time, but the technology that we’re using is completely up to date,” Abel said. “It’s not like we have 1979 or 1984 technology running the plant. We have 2011 technology running the plant.”

Dana Point resident Penny Maynard, who attended the breakfast to hear more information about the power plant, said the presentation was worthwhile.

“I thought it provided a lot of detail,” Maynard said.

until the companies complete detailed seismic maps and better understand risks posed by earthquakes and tsunamis.

Lawmakers questioned whether the utilities have been dragging their feet on conducting three-dimensional seismic studies called for in a 2008 state report to assess the risks posed by offshore faults.

Caroline McAndrews, director of licensing at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, said in March that the plant has applied to the Public Utilities Commission for permission to charge ratepayers an estimated $21.6 million for those studies.

The license for San Onofre expires in 2022, and Southern California Edison has not yet applied to renew it. --Toni McAllister contributed to this report.

DDMH August 05, 2011 at 02:33 PM
Oh yes we should really be comforted by this official's statement and presentation. Wasn't it the official statement and position of a certain California power company that the water in the town of Henley, cited in the movie Erin Brocovich, was similarly comforting but the reality was that people were dying. And according to recent studies in the area the chromium levels in the water are still high and essentially nothing has changed . Yes, lets feel comforted by what Con. Ed. is telling us while they delay safety studies and try to place the blame on consumers for not footing the bill. Yes, let's have another breakfast and be comforted.
Robert Hartford August 05, 2011 at 09:04 PM
DDMH, I like the sarcasm but it's only a couple of nuclear reactors sitting next to the ocean on top of a dormant fault line. What could happen? It's not like something dormant ever becomes active again or like we live in California. It's not like an earthquake would cause the reactors to scramble and then have a tsunami higher than 30 feet flooding out the emergency generators because they were too stupid to move them to higher ground even after they saw what happened in Japan. Come on. You need to relax and put your life in the hands of our trusted government officials who are always looking out for our best interest and would never lie to us. Have some pancakes.
DDMH August 08, 2011 at 09:14 AM
Yes I knew someone would understand. Isn't it amazing how after a few pancakes everyone feels better and there are only our two voices in a corporate vacuum. I bet you didn't eat the pancakes either!

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