The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has posted an extremely useful FAQ about the Japan earthquake. The very first question answers a big one:
1) Can an earthquake and tsunami as large as happened in Japan also happen here?
This earthquake occurred on a “subduction zone”, which is the type of tectonic region that produces earthquakes of the largest magnitude. A subduction zone is a tectonic plate boundary where one tectonic plate is pushed under another plate. Subduction zone earthquakes are also required to produce the kind of massive tsunami seen in Japan. In the continental US, the only subduction zone is the Cascadia subduction zone which lies off the coast of northern California, Oregon and Washington. So, a continental earthquake and tsunami as large as in Japan could only happen there.
It goes on to note that only one nuclear power plant is in this area, the Columbia Generating Station in Washington, and it’s 255 miles from the coast (thus even further from the zone). That means the potent one-two punch suffered by Fukushima Daiichi cannot happen to a nuclear plant in the United States. That doesn’t absolve the industry from taking the lessons from this event, but it is mightily reassuring still.
And that’s just question 1. By all means, read the rest.
The New York Times has put up an interactive 3-D graphic showing how fuel is stored at boiling water reactors such as Fukushima Daiichi. Interesting presentation and a good explanation of why keeping the used fuel pools filled with water is so important.
The NRC is having a meeting. And you’re invited.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission will be briefed by its staff on the NRC’s response to the ongoing nuclear event in Japan in a public meeting on March 21 at 9 a.m. at NRC Headquarters, 11555 Rockville Pike, Rockville, Md. The commission meeting will be open to public observation and will be webcast at: http://www.nrc.gov/public-involve/public-meetings/webcast-live.html.
This is what they’d call on Broadway a hard ticket, as you’d imagine, so the best bet, even if you live in the area, is to watch the hearing on the web or on C-Span, which will carry it. It doesn’t look like there will be a q-and-a session, but it should be quite interesting.