Is the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant a threat to San Diego?

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California is known for its earthquakes.  The San Francisco quake of 1989 exposed the weakness of our infrastructure with the partial collapse of the Bay Bridge and numerous other buildings.  The disaster in Japan leaves us all to consider, what would happen to us in Southern California if a quake that tremendous hit? Are we in danger of a nuclear fall out at the San Onofre power plant?

California sits along the San Andreas Fault, the boundary between the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate.  This location along the fault line makes our area at high risk for major earthquakes at any given moment.

Considering the extreme difficulty Japan has had to control their nuclear systems in the aftermath of the 8.9 earthquake last week, what precautionary measures need to be met in order to prepare for that type of disaster in California?

The nuclear power plant built along the Pacific Coast in San Onofre near San Clemente is potentially vulnerable to a quake shaking above a 7.0 on the Richter scale. How do the owners of the plant view our emergency preparedness compared to Japan?

“The science says that we could see about five miles from the plant an earthquake, perhaps equal to a magnitude 6.5, 6.6,” said Alexander to CBS News. “So we designed the plant to exceed the maximum threat. It’s designed to withstand a 7.0.”

Expert seismologist Tom Heaton begs to differ, “Nobody’s ever prepared for this kind of earthquake, but compared to Japan, probably we’re not nearly as prepared as Japan,” the engineering seismologist at Cal Tech explains to CBS News.

The most upsetting part of this situation is that there is not much nuclear power plant owners can do to alleviate the stress associated with the feeling of an impending disaster.  There are currently no new power plants being built in the United States, but several prospective new structures are under consideration at this time.

Learn more about our potential risk at CBS News.

Photo by Alan Awnis via Flickr

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