In light of the crisis in Japan, governments around the world have been reviewing their nuclear energy policies and the safety of their nuclear power plants. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission ran some numbers to rank the likelihood of an earthquake-caused nuclear disaster here in America, and it turns out that the highest risk plant is on the Hudson River. Located just 24 miles north of New York City, the Indian Point Energy Center houses the most dangerous reactor. Read on to find out why the reactors that are located in more earthquake-prone areas are not the biggest risks.
You would think that the highest risk reactors would be located near fault lines, like the Diablo Canyon Power Plant and San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in California, but you would be wrong. The reactors at those plants were built to withstand earthquakes, while the reactors at Indian Point — and other plants in the East — were not.
The NRC took into consideration the chance of a serious earthquake and the strength of a plant’s design. The chance of damage to the No. 3 core reactor at Indian Point is 1 in 10,000 each year, putting it “right on the verge of requiring ‘immediate concern regarding adequate protection‘ of the public.” The plants with the second and third highest risk are in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, respectively. MSNBC has a complete list of all ranked U.S. nuclear power plants.
When it reported its rankings, the NRC made it clear that operating nuclear power plants was still safe. But they also noted that the margin of safety in regards to earthquakes has been reduced over the last few decades. Most plants received their certificates of operation more than 30 years ago (Indian Point began operating in 1976), and since then, scientists have learned a lot about earthquakes in the eastern and central U.S. New fault lines continue to be found and new software constantly advances the accuracy of prediction for how the ground shakes.
Via The Daily Intel