California, its utilities and the rest of the West Coast, went on alert Friday in response to the 8.9 Richter Scale quake that occurred offshore northeastern Japan, and the only significant impact was the closure for 2-1/2 hours of a natural gas-fired electric generation plant in the northern end of the state. Otherwise, California's two major coastal nuclear generating plants and a host of gas and power facilities were unaffected.
Energy companies generally were targeted with the warnings, and operations for the most part went on without interruption. The major ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in Southern California halted some cargo operations ahead of a tsunami surge that turned out to be relatively small.
The State Department offered assistance and U.S. Navy ships were sent to the region to help. Likewise, California Gov. Jerry Brown directed the state's emergency management agency to be on full alert and to make state resources available to the Japanese government. "We stand ready to assist them," Brown said. With a tsunami warning covering the entire West Coast, Brown urged Californians living in the coastal ares to follow state and federal response agencies' instructions.
Late Friday afternoon, Gov. Brown did declare states of emergencies for four Northern California coastal counties (Del Norte, Humboldt, San Mateo and Santa Cruz) that sustained tsunami water surge damage to ports, harbors and infrastructure. There was no energy infrastructure identified as damaged. Farther north, the Oregon Public Utility Commission (PUC) reported that all the utilities successfully activated their emergency response programs, and the state emergency command center was deactivated by mid-afternoon. "The bottom line was that there were no damages," an Oregon PUC spokesperson said.
Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) on Friday closed its gas-fired 163 MW Humboldt Bay power plant from 5:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. PST, resulting in rotating controlled outages for 6,800 customers in the area during the 7-8 a.m. PST time frame, a local utility spokesperson told NGI Friday. Down on the central California coast, PG&E's 2,200 MW Diablo Canyon nuclear generating plant went into its "unusual event" emergency mode, but both units at the plant continued to operate at 100% capacity, a spokesperson at that facility told NGI.
"We continue in this emergency mode with close monitoring, but there has been no threat to either the plant or the public here," said the Diablo Canyon spokesperson, adding that the measurable tsunami surge at nearby Avila Beach was 6.3 feet, while at the nuclear site, which sits 85 feet above sea level, the surge was measured at between two and a half and three feet. "We don't expect any impact."
Reports on a major nuclear plant in Japan were much different. At Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s (TEPCO) Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station Units 1, 2 and 3 automatically shut down due to the Miyagiken-oki earthquake, and then the plant reportedly experienced a total blackout of station power, including backup supplies. It was feared that the plant's ability to cool the reactor core could be jeopardized, and with this risk, Japanese authorities reportedly evacuated an area in a two-mile radius of the plant.
At California's other major nuclear site, the Southern California Edison Co. (SCE) San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) in the far northern end of San Diego County, operations proceeded under the tsunami advisory, according to a SCE spokesperson. Unlike Diablo Canyon, about 350 miles to the north, little surf variation was detected at SONGS.
"Our monitors observed very little unusual wave activity," the spokesperson said. "The quake that struck Japan posed no danger to SONGS. The plant's protective measures include a reinforced tsunami wall rising 30 feet above sea level."
A spokesperson for San Diego-based Sempra Energy's two utility company operations reported that they were "operating normally but monitoring the situation closely" during the morning hours Friday. Meanwhile, there were no reports of any problems from the tsunami alert at Sempra's Energia Costa Azul liquefied natural gas receiving terminal along the Pacific Coast of North Baja California in Mexico.
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