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Authorities seek to ease concern over California nuclear plant safety

03-15-2011 14:50 BJT Special Report:9.0 Magnitude Earthquake Rocks Japan |

LOS ANGELES, March 14 (Xinhua) -- California authorities said on Monday that a nuclear plant in the U.S. state is well-protected, reassuring citizens who were concerned about the safety of the facility as the nuclear disaster is unfolding in Japan as a result of a 9-magnitude quake.

The 84-acre San Onofre generating station in the northern corner of San Diego County, southern California is built to withstand a 7-magnitude earthquake, said Gil Alexander, a spokesman for the generation station's operator, Southern California Edison.

That is greater than the 6.5 shaker that scientists predicted could strike the plant before it was built 42 years ago, he said in remarks published by the Los Angeles Times on its website.

Residents in southern California have voiced concern that the nuclear plant would become a hazard if a quake bigger than 7.0 magnitude hit the area.

Alexander said the nuclear disaster unfolding in Japan would not happen in Los Angeles.

He said a 25-foot-high (7.6-meter-high) "tsunami wall" of reinforced concrete was also erected between the plant and the adjacent ocean, a height based on scientists' best estimates of the potential threat.

The geological fault most likely to directly threaten the San Onofre nuclear plant lies about five miles (eight km) offshore, Alexander said.

In addition to diesel generators, the plant has a battery system and a gravity-driven emergency cooling system, Alexander said.

"We will comb through the details of their emergency very carefully and whatever lessons can and should be applied here will be noted," he said. "That process will unfold very vigorously."

Meanwhile, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission also sought to allay fears that small releases of radiation from Japan's crippled Fukishima reactors were a threat to the U.S., the Los Angeles Times said.

Available information indicates that weather conditions have carried any radioactive vapors out to sea and away from the Japanese population. Given the thousands of miles between the two countries, Hawaii, Alaska, the U.S. territories and the U.S. West Coast are not expected to experience any harmful levels of radioactivity, the commission said.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, a group that has been critical of nuclear energy, said it was also watching the Japanese crisis unfolding.

The San Onofre nuclear plant had three operating domes when built but Unit 1 was retired in 1992. Spent fuel rods are stored there.

Annual energy output at the plant is the equivalent of that produced by 20 million to 25 million barrels of oil, Southern California Edison officials say. The plant generates 2,200 megawatts of electricity, about 20 percent of Southern California's usage, or enough to power 1.4 million homes.

Editor:Yang Jie |Source: Xinhua

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