All of us are watching what's happening in Japan with wide-eyed horror. A country hit with a 9.0 earthquake followed by a 30-foot tsunami followed by possible partial meltdowns in more than one reactor is more disaster than any single country deserves.
But while the first two are acts of nature, the third is man's own doing and no one else's. As a Californian, seeing this disaster unfold in real time has been almost too much to bear, especially knowing there's a nuclear power plant about 100 miles or so down the coast in an earthquake-prone state. San Onofre nuclear generating station's operating reactors were built in 1982 and 1983 and took into account the earthquake technology available at the time.
Since Japan's disaster, many Californians are questioning the wisdom and safety of a nuclear reactor on the California coast. Well, let's leave it to Bill Hemmer to reassure us all that it's just perfectly fine because it has a 25-foot seawall and is certified for a 7.0 earthquake. Again, to review Japan's current predicament:
- 9.0 earthquake
- 30-foot tsunami
How exactly should we feel reassured about a nuclear reactor that officials claim will withstand a 7.0 earthquake and is protected by a 25-foot sea wall? Just for perspective, the Northridge earthquake was 6.8 and was not considered being even close to "The Big One" we're all expecting here in California at some point.
But San Onofre isn't the only power plant on the California coast. There's the El Diablo Canyon plant located near Avila Beach in San Luis Obispo. That plant's specs certify it to a 7.5 magnitude earthquake. It also lies close to 4 separate earthquake faults.
Experts are predicting that the next quake on the San Andreas Fault could be up to an 8.1.
When? Thomas Jordan, Director of the Southern California Earthquake Center, has said repeatedly that the San Andreas fault is "locked and loaded. It's been a long time since an earthquake has occurred on that fault — over 150 years."
We are being reassured that quakes of around 8 are the most we could expect in California because the fault geology is different here than it is in Japan. In fact the biggest quake recorded in California history was the 1857 Fort Tejon earthquake, on the San Andreas fault, which reached 7.9.
This segment seems so mild and calm, but it plays right into the agenda we're seeing in play right now touting nuclear power as being so "clean" and "safe". For many Californians watching the tragedy in Japan, there's nothing clean, safe or desirable about it at all. That includes me. Why not solar? Why not anything but nuclear? Why is it that in 30-plus years there hasn't been more development of alternatives? Oh, wait. I know the answer. Thanks, Exxon/Mobil and Chevron.