California Senators Call For Emergency Inspections Of Nuke Plants

WASHINGTON (KCBS/AP) – California Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein have asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to inspect two California nuclear plants built near earthquake faults to ensure they can withstand a major quake.

The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in San Clemente and Pacific Gas and Electric’s Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant near San Luis Obispo were designed to withstand quakes less severe than the magnitude 8.9 that devastated Japan, Boxer and Feinstein wrote in a letter to the NRC.

A new fault discovered near Diablo Canyon figured prominently in a Senate hearing Boxer convened Wednesday.

“Mother Nature is notorious for not obeying rules that we make. We go in and we decide what the earthquake risk is and Mother Nature says, excuse me, you didn’t ask my opinion,” she said.

KCBS’ Doug Sovern Reports:

Experts predict Diablo Canyon will not see a quake greater than 6.5. The plant was built to withstand a magnitude 7.5 temblor. The San Onofre facility was also built to withstand quakes greater than predicted, according to Southern California Edison.

Boxer was stunned when the chairman of the NRC, Gregory Jaczko, could not tell her how many other nuclear plants in the United States are built near fault lines.

Jaczko pointed out that inspectors are on site at most plants on a regular basis.

“We are not doing nothing. We do have inspectors at our plants that are there all the time. So we have at each site at least two inspectors. So we are constantly doing inspections at the facilities,” he said.

But of course no plant can be built to withstand all the forces of nature, said Anthony Pietrangelo with the industry group, the Nuclear Energy Institute.

“People are seeing what’s happening in Japan and they’re scared. We can never say that that could never happen here. There’s no such thing as a probability of zero.”

Using increasing sensitive technology, scientists are constantly identifying new faults in the country, sometimes after earthquakes are detected.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

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