Earthquakes and Nukes

by on December 4, 2020 · 0 comments

in Energy, Environment

Nuclear Shutdown News  

By Michael Steinberg  / Black Rain Press

Nuclear Shutdown News chronicles the decline and fall of the nuclear power industry in the US and beyond, and highlights the efforts of those working to create a nuclear free future.

Earthquakes & Nukes

When we think of earthquakes and nuclear plants in the US, it usually concerns shakers and nukes in California. In the 1980s, a mass antinuclear movement, The Abalone Alliance, waged a fierce battle against the construction of the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant on the central California coastline near San Luis Obispo.

Over a two week period in 1981, there were almost 2000 arrests of those committing civil disobedience in opposition to Diablo Canyon. One of the key issues in this struggle was concerns about building a nuke plant in an earthquake prone area.

Nevertheless, the Pacific Gas & Electric sponsored project went on and Diablo Canyon’s two reactors started up.

Meanwhile, on the East Coast, sister organization The Clamshell Alliance formed to fight against the siting of the Seabrook nuclear plant on coastal New Hampshire during the same period. Unfortunately, despite a spirited  struggle, this struggle failed too.

This history came back to life recently when an earthquake hit, of all places, off coastal Massachusetts. On November 9, the Boston Globe reported that a 3.6 shaker struck the city of New Bedford, formerly the nation’s foremost whaling center.

Not much by Cali standards, the quake nevertheless also was felt in New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York’s Long Island.

The Globe reported that the quake left 22 in New Bedford homeless, and caused structural damage such as cracked chimneys. Though earthquakes are rare in New England the Globe reported that in1755, one estimated as a 6.0 hit Cape Ann, near Cape Cod.

Fortunately there are on two nuke plants still operating in New England –  Seabrook and Millstone in my old hometown in Connecticut, for the quake to effect. Others in Maine, MA, and CT are history.

Farther Afield

A new twist to this issue arose in an October 22 Reuters report, “US nuclear plants in South Carolina, Missouri face the worst quake risk.” An analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists asserted, “The US nuclear reactors with facing the highest risks of meltdown are not in earthquake prone California, but in states including South Carolina and Missouri.”

The analysis, done by Edwin Lyman, UCC’s director of nuclear safety, using utility and government data, found that the H.B. Robinson nuclear plant in SC has a 1 in 17,000 chance that a quake would cause a meltdown there. That risk is “five times higher than at Diablo Canyon,” Reuters reported.

The Devil’s Due

Meanwhile, in Southern California, a report from Pasadena educational radio station KPCC 89.3 on August 20 revealed that a dissenting report on the seismic safety at Diablo Canyon has not been acted on by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for over a year. The report, filed by former NRC inspector at Diablo Canyon Dr. Michael Peck, challenged the conventional wisdom that Diablo Canyon has no serious seismic issues.

The area around Diablo Canyon has multiple fault lines in and around it, including the San Andreas, Shoreline, and Hosgri. The Shoreline fault was not known to exist until after the nuke plant began operating.

Following the massive 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan that caused three meltdowns at the Fukushimi Daichi nuclear plant, opposition to Diablo Canyon flared up again. As a result, in 2016 owner PG&E agreed to shut its two reactors down, one in 2024, the other the following year.

If they last that long.

Sources: Boston Globe, boston; Reuters,; KPCC,; Wikipedia,


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