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SCE Planning New Seismic Study For San Onofre

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Aired 3/31/11

The nuclear crisis brought on by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan could inform a new study of the fault lines closest to the San Onofre nuclear power station.

— When the recent earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi power plant, Southern California Edison was already planning a new study of the fault lines closest to the San Onofre nuclear power station.

San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station is a nuclear power plant located on the Pacific coast of California. The 84-acre site is in the northwestern corner of San Diego County, and surrounded by the San Onofre State Park and next to the I-5 Highway.
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Above: San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station is a nuclear power plant located on the Pacific coast of California. The 84-acre site is in the northwestern corner of San Diego County, and surrounded by the San Onofre State Park and next to the I-5 Highway.

The power company released its last seismic study in February. But company spokesman Gill Alexander said the operator is always seeking better safety information.

“When you operate a nuclear plant you’re never satisfied by what you knew or what you did yesterday,” he said. “And so, we’ve been examining the possibility not just of evaluating existing data, but perhaps doing some new science.”

The new science would rely on newly available technology to reexamine fault line data.

“Taking more sophisticated computers and their programs and applying it to other technology that is not new,” Alexander said. “But, we have a much greater ability to analyze the data coming out.”

The company’s last seismic study was released in February. It found the plant could withstand a magnitude-7.0 earthquake with an epicenter within 5 miles of the facility. Southern California Edison estimated the new study would cost at least $21 million.

State lawmakers and regulators have been calling on utility companies for years to conduct new seismic studies using improved 3D imaging software. When the company releases it’s revised proposal later this spring it will incorporate lessons learned from the devastation in Japan.

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