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Fault Line Study Near San Onofre Will Be Made Public

Southern California Edison, the majority owner of the San Onofre nuclear power plant, plans to do more thorough studies of fault lines discovered since the plant was built in the 1980s. The Oceanside subduction fault runs just off shore and was discovered about a decade ago.

Aired 5/4/12 on KPBS News.

A tentative ruling says Southern California Edison does not need the same independent review of earthquake studies near San Onofre as other studies involving Diablo Canyon, a nuclear power plant farther north. But scientists who will conduct the research say they plan to make the evidence public.

San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station
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Above: San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station

The company has expanded its research plans since the Fukushima disaster, to see if safety measures at San Onofre are adequate. San Onofre has a 30 foot sea wall, about the same height as the sea wall at Fukushima which was overwhelmed after a magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami.

Gary Headrick is with San Clemente Green, a group concerned about the location of the San Onofre Nuclear Plant, which is within 50 miles of 8 million southern California residents. He would like to see the plant decommissioned and said he sees the earthquake studies as a delaying tactic.

“They are resisting having independent pier review,” he said, “and what does that tell us? I think they want to control the outcome of the study.“

Edison declined to be interviewed, but Neal Driscoll of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, who will conduct the research, said this new data will be open source.

“That means it will be available to every scientist across the country, and the public,” Driscoll said, “so the data will be public data and people can evaluate it and objectively look at these structures offshore. “

Driscoll said ships should start mapping fault lines beneath the ocean floor near San Onofre in November, using new 3D technology. The timing will depend on permits to be granted by Marine Fisheries and the California Coastal Commission. The actual mapping would take less than three weeks, to have minimum effect on marine mammals.

The research will be done in collaboration with other scientists, including Graham Kent, the Seismological Director of the University of Nevada, Reno.

Driscoll said a number of scientists from around the country will be able to see the data as it is collected. The data will then go through quality control and be released and made widely available for analysis four to six weeks later.

He said, even if there is a range of interpretations, they will be taken into account when calculating the potential effects of ground motion near the nuclear power plant.

Comments

Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | May 4, 2012 at 8:05 a.m. ― 2 years, 7 months ago

Pier review? he he...

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | May 4, 2012 at 9:16 a.m. ― 2 years, 7 months ago

Well, at least they are using spell-check.

A safety study is a delaying tactic? If SCE refused to conduct it would SCG be happier? SCE is trying to control the outcome with an open source data set? It seems like there is no pleasing SCG.

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Avatar for user 'Alison St John'

Alison St John, KPBS Staff | May 6, 2012 at 11:22 a.m. ― 2 years, 7 months ago

Jeanmarc... Pier review.. oops my fault, I spend too much time walking on the OC pier!
benz72.... that's why I did the reporting: to find out if the data would be made public. Gary Headrick didn't know it would be when I spoke to him.

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | May 7, 2012 at 10:36 a.m. ― 2 years, 7 months ago

Sorry Alison, I must have missed that in the article, in my initial read it seemed he was opposed regardless of attempts to perform the study openly. Thank you for the clarification. Are you planning on following up now that there is more information?

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