The 5.8 quake that hit the East Coast of the US this morning (happy homecoming, Todd!) was, thankfully, not a cause of major disaster.
However, it very well could have been. How so?
The North Anna nuclear reactor, 50 miles East of Charlottesville (and generally upwind), 50 miles NW of Richmond (and somewhat downwind), and 90 miles SW of Washington DC (which is definitely downwind), is located about eight miles to the West and four miles above the epicenter of yesterday’s earthquake.
The North Anna plant was only built to withstand a quake of approximately 5.9-6.1 scale. It has two reactors. A third was planned and committed to construction in February.
During the 1990s, all seismographs were taken offline at the North Anna plant in response to budget cuts.
What’s most alarming, however, is that it possesses a “hot” spent-fuel pool (hot fuel is stored in water for 5-10 years until it is cool enough to be kept dry without melting) suspended several stories above ground, in the same manner as the Fukushima reactor. North Anna is considered the seventh most likely plant in the United States to suffer core damage as a result of an earthquake.
During the quake, the plant lost all external power and was forced to go to its backup diesel generators. Of the four, one failed at startup. Not to be too much of a nit-picker, but a harsher earthquake would very likely have damaged or destroyed diesel generators.
Do I really need to spell out the potential disaster of a core meltdown or spent-fuel meltdown and the resulting contamination of the entirety of the Richmond-DC corridor? Were you aware that the government of Japan has determined that every child under 18 living within about a 25-mile radius of Fukushima is going to be tested for thyroid cancer regularly for the rest of their natural lives?
Pardon me for pointing this out, but am I the only one who sees an opportunity here for well-paid jobs in the construction and renewal of reactor facilities, testing, and maintenance at the nuclear reactors in all fifty states? A little job-creation, anyone?
Or are we still too concerned about the Republican-manufactured crisis of the debt ceiling?
UPDATE: I hate being right sometimes. Seems the waste tanks were rattled quite a bit in their container – as much as 4.5 inches each. 4.5 inches toward one another could have been…disastrous.