Thursday, March 31, 2011

California: Both Nuke Plants Near Faults

Another lesson ignored?

For those naysayers constantly jabbing and maligning solar power advocates as energy pollyannas, here's a present-day take on California's two nuclear plants. The earthquake threat here is obvious but it's possible elsewhere in the U.S. (At right: San Onofre nuclear power plant. The following is an excerpt from "Top Ten Nuclear Nations' Quake Hazard". See whole story at
"Japan's Fukushima Daiichi crisis has raised questions around the world on the earthquake hazard in countries that rely heavily on nuclear power. As it turns out, the seismic threat varies widely in the top ten countries generating electricity by fission.

Although the United States has not built a new nuclear power station since the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island, it is far and away the world's largest nuclear power producer. Its 104 reactors produce more electricity than all the nuclear plants in the next two nations-France and Japan-combined. But because U.S. electricity use is so prodigious, all those nuclear plants provide only 20 percent of the total.

"Given the map of U.S. earthquake hazard, it's no surprise that California's two nuclear power plants are the ones that have raised the most political concern in the wake of Japan's crisis. San Onofre, in San Clemente, and Diablo Canyon, in Avila Beach, are located right on the coast, near active faults.

Earthquake hazard in this area of the West, where the North American tectonic plate meets the Pacific plate, is about five times greater than the earthquake hazard in the eastern half of the United States, says seismologist Seth Stein, of Northwestern University's Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. He is author of the recent book, Disaster Deferred, on how new science is changing views of earthquake hazards in the Midwestern United States. As the book explains, there is some seismic hazard in the central and eastern part of the country, where the vast majority of U.S. nuclear reactors are located. Damaging earthquakes have occurred near Charleston, South Carolina; Boston, Massachusetts; and New Madrid, Missouri."


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