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As Japan struggles with nuclear reactors crippled by the earthquake and tsunami, California's two U.S. senators called on federal regulators today to make sure the state's two commercial nuclear power plants are safe.

Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer pointed out that about 7.4 million people live within 50 miles of the San Onofre plant in San Diego County and about 424,000 live within 50 miles of the Diablo Canyon plant near San Luis Obispo.

As the Bee's editorial board also pointed out today, the two plants sit near faults and a 2008 study cited newly discovered and larger seismic threats.

In their joint letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the two senators said they want to know if the agency "will address all of the threats, including seismic threats, described in the 2008 report at these facilities." They asked the commission to "perform a thorough inspection at these two plants to evaluate their safety and emergency preparedness plans."

They list a series of questions on plant design and operations; type of reactor; and preparedness to withstand an earthquake or tsunami and other potential threats.

The two senators are likely to get rather prompt responses. Boxer is chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which has jurisdiction over the NRC. And Feinstein is chairwoman of the appropriations subcommittee that oversees NRC's budget.

But Boxer was not satisfied by the testimony before her committee today by NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko.

She said on MSNBC that she wants greater reassurances about the two California plants, as well as older reactors across the United States.

"We need to look at plants like ours," she told Lawrence O'Donnell.


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