Tuesday, January 17, 2012

On Frontline, Indian Point and the Ramopo Fault

On tonight's program, we're hearing a lot about the Ramopo fault, but we're not hearing a lot from experts who disagree with Columbia University seismologist Lynn Sykes and his conclusions about earthquake risk around Indian Point Energy Center.

But back in March 2011, the Journal News did ask those questions:

But the U.S. Geological Survey — one of the nation's foremost research labs — said geologic evidence about the Ramapo Fault is "insufficient to demonstrate the existence of tectonic faulting or ... slip or deformation."

It didn't even include the fault in calculations of earthquake hazards in 2008.

Geology professor Alec Gates put it more succinctly: "The Ramapo Fault is dead," said Gates, chairman of Earth and environmental sciences at Rutgers University. "It was a big fault in the old days, but not anymore."...

What differentiates this region from more earthquake-prone areas, experts say, is that it lies in the middle of the North American Plate, a tectonic slab that encompasses North America to the Pacific Ocean, including Greenland, Cuba, the Bahamas, and parts of Siberia and Iceland.

"It's not a plate boundary; that's the primary reason you don't have activity and that it's hard to predict activity," said Paul Olsen, a professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. "The formation of the Ramapo Fault was at least 300 million years ago. Most of the earthquakes around here have nothing to do with it."
Viewers should question why these experts weren't mentioned at all in tonight's Frontline report.

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