Nuclear power plants and the risks posed by natural disasters are under increased public attention since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan melted down and released enormous amounts of radiation. On March 11 of this year, a catastrophic tsunami and 9.0-magnitude earthquake slammed into the heart of this coastal city, knocking out the vital cooling system to the nuclear reactors. Experts are now saying it could take 30 years to clean up.
In August of this year, an earthquake rattled the eastern wall of the United States, with shocks felt from South Carolina all the way up to Boston. The epicenter of the quake was about 11 miles from the North Anna Power Station, home of two nuclear reactors. These reactors were shut down, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is currently deciding whether or not the station should return to service. 1.9 million people live within 50 miles of the North Anna nuclear plant.
Last weekend, a 7.6-magnitude earthquake devastated the nation of Turkey, producing over one hundred aftershocks from its epicenter in Tabanli. This epicenter is about 100 miles from the Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant in Armenia, which National Geographic once referred to as the world’s “most dangerous nuclear plant.” While no immediate damage was found after experiencing about a 3.0-magnitude shock from the earthquake, this plant sits on one of the world’s more earthquake-prone fault lines, and is only 20 miles from the Armenian capital of Yerevan, home to over 1,000,000 residents.
Nuclear plants are not only one of the most deadly potential terrorist targets, but also a threat due to natural disasters. “Radioactive zones” continue to pop up in areas all around the Fukushima plant – areas in which kids play, people work, and animals live. One suburban area, over 100 miles away from the plant, has detected radiation levels as high as areas within the Fukushima nuclear plant evacuation zone, almost eight months after the disaster.
Natural disasters are unavoidable and generally unforeseeable, but the nuclear disasters they can create can be avoided if we move away from dangerous nuclear power in favor of safe, renewable energy.
Interested in seeing if your location lies in a nuclear risk zone? Check out our nuclear locator map to find the nuclear plant nearest to you.
Matthew is a youth blogger at Greenpeace, USA.