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Senator Barbara Boxer delivered a statement concerning the re-licensing of California’s two nuclear power plants last Thursday at an oversight hearing for a Nuclear Regulatory Commission study on the safety of American nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima disaster triggered by a massive earthquake and ensuing tsunami off the coast of Japan.

From Boxer’s prepared statement:

“The emergency in Japan serves as an important wake-up call for the United States, and we cannot afford to ignore it. If there is one lesson to be learned, it is that we must plan for the unexpected . . . the NRC is in the middle of a 90-day Task Force review of its processes and regulations in light of the events in Japan. The most recent inspections of California’s two nuclear power plants turned up numerous problems that need to be corrected.”

Among concerns regarding earthquake preparedness at the Diablo Canyon plant near San Luis Obispo were the absence of a contingency plan to access seawater for an alternate cooling source if an earthquake damaged access roads, and that a security fence blocks access to run hoses for cooling water from reservoirs to the plant.

Locally, issues at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in northern San Diego County included the lack of an agreement for fuel to power backup generators and the storage of firefighting equipment in an area whose access could be complicated in the event of an earthquake.

The Reader reported last August on concerns that seismic activity concerns at both sites might be considerably greater than acknowledged at the time of the plants’ construction. Regardless, Diablo Canyon has filed a petition to extend its operating license (recently put on hold by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission), and San Onofre is preparing to do the same.

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