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Nuclear Power Plants And Earthquakes

nuclear power plants and earthquakes

The United States gets approximately 20% of its electric power from nuclear power plants, and there are a bit over 100 of them in operation at the present time.  Most of these plants are found east of the Mississippi River, but several are also found on the West Coast.  California has several nuclear plants that have been built right along fault lines, such as the Diablo Canyon plant, which is adjacent to the San Andreas Fault.   These plants are said to have been built to withstand earthquakes of 7.5 magnitude, but what if a stronger earthquake occurred, say along the lines of the one that ruined the Fukushima power plant?  That quake measured 9.0 on the Richter scale, large enough to cause more than an ‘incident’ at the Diablo Canyon plant.


Besides ‘incidents’ that occur at nuclear plants, there are also the ‘near misses’ – problems so severe that they require the attention of Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  These incidents and near misses generally involve human error or equipment failure, and so far have not caused any serious problems recently, although Three Mile Island is still in the back of everyone’s mind.  However, if an earthquake with a magnitude greater than 7.5 strikes, will the result be what we have lately been seeing in Japan?

Besides the nuclear power plants sitting astride the San Andreas and other faults in California, there are also nuclear plants in the New Madrid Seismic Zone.  This is an odd area containing faults that are not associated with the boundaries of crustal plates.  As with most nuclear power plants, those in this area are said to be safe from earthquake damage, but if you live near a nuclear power plant, especially in a geologically active zone, you will have to decide for yourself.

Preparing For The Worst

If, regardless of the information that has been put out by government agencies and the corporations that own the nuclear power plants, an earthquake does significant damage, you should be prepared ahead of tiHoney Bucket Kitme to take action.  A major earthquake, strong enough to damage the plant, will undoubtedly cause other damage to the area as well.  Some roads might be impassable and many major services, such as electricity and water will be lost. Make sure you have an emergency water supply in case your family does go through a water shortage.

Living within ten miles of the power plant will probably mean that you will have to evacuate.  You should listen to the radio to keep abreast of any announcements from your state’s emergency alert service on whether you should leave or stay where you are.  If you are staying in your home, seal it as completely as possible to keep radiation out.  Any clothing that may have been exposed should be removed and placed in a plastic bag.

The closer you live to the plant, the more likely it is that you will be told to evacuate. You should have already planned several ways out of your area to safety, in case one of the routes is unusable. Be sure to take along any prescription medications, too.  Keep the car windows closed and also close off the air vents.