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Emergency drill at San Onofre nuclear power plant

April 12, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
The emergency drill at the San Onofre nuclear power plant is taking on added significance in light of the nuclear crisis in Japan.

Experts are making sure safeguards are in place to protect the region from a possible radiation leak. San Onofre residents heard sirens sounding off as multiple agencies ran through an exercise that simulated a radiation scare.

"This is a drill," said a San Onofre employee. "There are no reports of injuries. We do not have any report of the release of radioactive material."

The simulation even included a mock press conference in Irvine, where officials demonstrated how they would instruct the public in a real-life radiation emergency.

As for the plant itself, emergency shutdown procedures were ran through, and San Onofre's two radioactive fuel rods were being secured.

The California Emergency Management Agency, or Cal EMA, coordinated the tests. Although the simulation is routine, it came at a time when the public was especially sensitive to radiation leaks. With problems mounting in Japan, Tuesday's event highlighted the importance of being prepared for the worst.

"And we have all types of emergency," said Tina Walker from Cal EMA. "Natural hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, floods. Certainly another concern because of recent global incidents, such as in Japan, now we have got an increased awareness about safety around and near nuclear power plants. "

Several drills have led up to Tuesday's graded exercise. FEMA will ultimately determine how well everyone performed, and whether or not safeguards are working.

There has never been a leak at San Onofre, and Southern California Edison said it remains committed to keeping the public safe.

"This is not a onetime deal for us," said Steven Conroy from SoCal Edison. "We do multiple drills in the course of the year. This is in fact our third drill this year. We may do another one, that'll be determined possibly as a result of what takes place here today."

FEMA will reveal its evaluation at a public meeting in San Juan Capistrano later this week.