Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Five U.S. reactors in quake zones


U.S. Seismic Activity

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) seismic hazard map show the probability level for an earthquake across the U.S. based on ground shaking, faults, seismicity and geodesy. This information helps dictate everything from building codes, insurance rates and public policy.

seismic-hazard-map-us.jpgUSGS National Seismic Hazard Map. Image via USGS

U.S. Seismic Activity Near Nuclear Power Plants/Research Reactors

Looking at the overlap of U.S. nuclear reactors (both power and research facilities) and earthquake zones is pretty alarming. The West Coast isn't as peppered with nukes as the states east of the Mississippi are but they're sitting atop some pretty shaky ground.
US Nuclear Power Plants Near Earthquake Zones



Five U.S. reactors in quake zones
Map points out at-risk nuke plants
By Steve Sternberg
USA TODAY 
At least five U.S. nuclear reactors are in earthquake-prone seismic zones, potentially exposing them to the forces that damaged the Fukushima plant in Japan, a new analysis shows.
The at-risk reactors are the Diablo Canyon Power Plant and San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in California; the South Texas Project near the Gulf Coast; the Waterford Steam Electric Station in Louisiana; and the Brunswick Steam Electric Plant in North Carolina.
They appear in an analysis by the mapping and geographic data firm ESRI Inc., based in Redlands, Calif. The online map, the first of its kind to let the public search potential danger zones by address, includes U.S. Geologic Survey (USGS) seismic information and earthquake history for every nuclear plant in the USA.
After the Fukushima disaster, President Obama ordered the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to evaluate the earthquake risk of every nuclear plant in the nation, said Victor Dricks, an NRC spokesman. Dricks said NRC regulations require companies that build nuclear plants to take into account local seismic history and fortify the plants against the largest quake that is likely to occur.
Dricks said the U.S. has taken proper precautions to ensure the safety of its plants. San Onofre, for instance, is built to withstand a magnitude-7.0 earthquake within 5 miles of the site, he said. In addition, the plant is 30 feet above sea level and has a reinforced concrete sea wall that is 30 feet tall and could withstand a 27-foot tsunami.
Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi plant suffered major damage from a magnitude-9.0 earthquake and 46-foot tsunami that hit March 11. The disaster triggered nuclear radiation leaks and an extensive evacuation in the region around the plant, which was built to withstand a 19-foot tsunami.
The ESRI map aims to help Americans determine their risk. It allows users to plug in their location and find the five nearest nuclear plants.
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