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San Onofre Nuclear Plant Max: 7.0 Quake, 25-Foot Tsunami

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Photo by exquisitur via Flickr


Photo by exquisitur via Flickr
Operators at Leslie Nielsen's favorite domed coastal facility, the San Onofre nuclear plant, are doing their best to reassure residents that the terrifying nuclear events currently unfolding in Japan will not happen here. Southern California Edison operates the station, and according to a spokesman, "the 84-acre generating station in the northern corner of San Diego County is built to withstand a magnitude 7.0 earthquake," reports LA Now.

That threshold is greater than the 6.5 magnitude shake predicted by scientists when it was built 42 years ago, but clearly and significantly less than the 8.9 quake suffered by Japan last week. Reinforced concrete was put in place between the plant and the ocean, creating a 25-foot-high "tsunami wall" based on best estimates of potential threat from the geological fault 5 miles offshore.

San Onofre's dome units were "built in layered shells, like Russian nesting dolls. The outer shell is made of reinforced concrete that is four-feet thick, and is designed to capture any unexpected release of radiation. The inner steel casing housing the reactor is 8 inches thick," reports LA Now."Inside the reactor, fuel rods and control rods that make up the nuclear core are surrounded by pressurized water."

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At least two plants in Japan were damaged and lost power making it difficult to cool the cores. San Onofre reportedly has safety systems -- diesel generators, a battery system, and gravity-driven emergency cooling -- in place should it find itself in a similar situation. Watching what happens in Japan, Edison says it will apply lessons learned from the disaster.