SAN ONOFRE —Southern California Edison had been planning a new study of seismic and tsunami risks, even before the Japan incident brought the focus on California’s nuclear power plants, including the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, according to plant spokesman Gil Alexander.
One part of this process is a special 90-day safety review announced recently by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that will re-evaluate readiness for natural disasters at each U.S. plant including the San Onofre site.
Alexander said the plant was about to propose the new research when the tragic events in Japan unfolded. They are now reviewing the San Onofre site plan prior to submitting it to regulators to determine if those events suggest an expansion of the scope of the new study.
“The assessment process will take time because no one wants to jump to conclusions about important issues such as what happened and how it applies to our plants,” Alexander said. “But this much we know. A methodical, thorough review of events in Japan will be completed and then U.S. nuclear power experts will determine if any modifications are needed to make our plants even safer.”
Southern California Edison submitted to the California Public Utilities Commission on Feb. 2, 2011, the results of an evaluation project the utility began in 2009 to assess how the seismic conditions near the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station might impact the reliability of plant power deliveries to the Southern California grid. The review responded to recommendations by the California Energy Commission based on California legislation AB 1632. The report contained seismic and tsunami hazard evaluations based on the latest available research, including that provided by a number of state and federal agencies. The evaluation demonstrated that the San Onofre plant can continue to operate reliably through its current license period.
Nevertheless, Southern California Edison will soon request authorization by the California Public Utilities Commission to conduct additional seismic research in connection with recommendations by the CEC and SCE’s ongoing seismic program related to the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. The study would be used to broaden scientific understanding of seismic conditions near the plant, and would include the following measures:
— Re-processing and re-analyzing existing data using more modern digital and numerical computer processes;
— Supplementing existing geodetic and seismological networks;
— Completing 2-D and 3-D reflective mapping offshore and additional onshore evaluations; and
— Completing additional tsunami hazard analysis.
The U.S. nuclear power industry has a commitment to developing and sharing lessons learned of any heavy industry in our country, Alexander said. When the earthquake and tsunami struck Japan and impacted several of their nuclear reactors, this aspect of the industry activated immediately.
As a part of the assessment taking place of what happened in Japan and whether it has applicable lessons for the safety of U.S. plants, Southern California Edison’s President Ron Litzinger and Chief Nuclear Officer Pete Dietrich have been in almost daily contact with both U.S. government and industry leaders.