Nuclear agency says California nuclear power plants in riskiest quake zones

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Evening sets on the San Onofre atomic power plant in northern San Diego County, south of San Clemente, California.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission reiterates that California’s two nuclear power plants are located in the riskiest quake zones in the country. That’s just the response to the first question from California’s two US Senators.

Democratic US Sen. Barbara Boxer got the information in an e-mail from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission: San Onofre and Diablo Canyon are the only nuclear power plants in the US located in areas of “high seismic hazard.” That’s a term the NRC uses to describe the potential for large magnitude quakes. Boxer says the new information means the two plants “require immediate attention in light of the catastrophic events in Japan.”

Boxer and her California colleague Sen. Dianne Feinstein have other questions for the NRC about the design and operation of the two nuclear power plants and how they’d withstand a big quake or tsunami.

Boxer also wants to know how the 7.5 million people that live within 50 miles of San Onofre would be evacuated in a nuclear emergency. Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials are expected back on Capitol Hill to answer those questions in mid-April.

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