* Two California nuclear plants watching Pacific tsunami
* Japan says no radiation from its nuclear plants
NEW YORK, March 11 (Reuters) - U.S. nuclear plants, built to cope with the biggest earthquakes, are well prepared to withstand the kind that rocked Japan on Friday, the nation’s nuclear regulator said.
Two U.S. nuclear plants along the California coast made preparations for a potential Pacific Ocean tsunami on Friday, but continued to operate normally. [ID:nN11241702]
But news of widespread shutdowns across the nuclear sector in Japan, which accounts for about a third of country’s power, raised questions about how the U.S. industry would respond in the event of a similar quake, one of the five biggest of the past century.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said the 104 reactors operating in this country were safe.
“There have been tremblers felt at U.S. plants over the past several years, but nothing approaching the need for emergency action,” Scott Burnell, a spokesman at the NRC told Reuters.
Japanese news agencies said authorities had evacuated an area around a nuclear plant in Fukushima prefecture, north of Tokyo, but the cabinet chief later said that no radiation leakage had occurred. [ID:nL3E7EB0MF]
As in Japan, U.S. reactors are designed to safely shut down in the event of an earthquake.
Before any reactor is built in the United States, owners are required to conduct geologic seismic studies to determine the biggest earthquake to have occurred in that are going back thousands of years.
The reactors — built by companies including PG&E Corp (PCG.N) and Edison International (EIX.N), which operate the California reactors — are designed to safely shut in the event of an earthquake that big, Burnell said.
If a bigger earthquake were to occur, Burnell said, the plant safety systems would continue to provide the level of safety needed to shut the plant but there would likely be some degradation, though not more than the plant was designed for.
The two biggest nuclear operators in the United States are Exelon Corp (EXC.N) and Entergy Corp (ETR.N). (Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Walter Bagley)