Japan's nuclear crisis sparking local safety concerns - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Japan's nuclear crisis sparking local safety concerns

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The San Diego-based U.S.S. Ronald Reagan had to reposition off the coast of Japan, after radiation was detected on board.

The U.S.S. Reagan, now on a humanitarian mission in Japan, has already been moved farther away from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant as a precaution, and Navy officials say they stand ready to move it even farther away if necessary.

"You just want to make sure they're safe and everything is going to be okay," said Mira Mesa resident Cecilia Reding, whose husband is on board the aircraft carrier.

She and the other loved ones of the 5600 sailors on board the San Diego-based vessel, which is now delivering desperately needed aid to those devastated by last week's 9.0 earthquake and tsunami in japan, remain on edge, after reports that radioactivity was detected on 17 service members on board the aircraft carrier, operating near the radioactive plume from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.

"What they were exposed to is similar to about one month of natural background radiation, from sources such as rocks, soil and the sun," said Lt. Anthony Falvo of the U.S. Navy.

All 17 have returned to active duty, after being treated with soap and water, according to Falvo.

Navy officials reassured the public that all those on board are safe and healthy.

But here at home, concern is mounting whether U.S. nuclear power plants, like San Onofre in northern San Diego county, and Diablo Canyon on the central coast... could withstand similar natural disasters.

Officials say there is no cause for concern. The San Onofre plant is built to withstand a 7.0 earthquake, far more powerful than the 6.5 temblor scientists predict could strike, according to Gil Alexander of Southern California Edison, the generation station's operator.

"When we talk about 'withstanding,' we mean our ability to shut it down and maintain it safely," Alexander said. "Certainly you're not going to operate the plant during a emergency, but you want to shut it down and protect the public, and we can do that."

Still, Japanese officials had also assumed their plants would hold up as well.

"It does tell us our assumptions about safety may be wrong," said Victor Galinsky, former commissioner of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, "and I think we really need to go back and take a look at our systems to make sure our assumptions are still valid."

There's also concern whether the radiation released in Japan could pose a threat to our west coast, especially if there is a full meltdown. The head of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission says it is unlikely we will feel any harmful effects here in the United States.

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