Nuclear plants are vulnerable to earthquakes, hurricanes, and attacks – are you at risk?

by Jim Riccio

August 26, 2011

New Yorkers rally to shut down Indian Point in Manhattan on August 12, 2011

108 million. That’s how many people live within 50 miles of a nuclear plant in the United States, as our new nuclear locator map shows. It’s an astonishing number. Every day one in three Americans go to work, school and church with the threat of a nuclear catastrophe looming in their own backyard.

These dangerous old nuclear plants are vulnerable to natural disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes, as well as deliberate attack, and Fukushima showed how catastrophic a nuclear meltdown can be for people living nearby when a disaster knocks out power to a nuclear plant. Months after the earthquake and nuclear meltdown at Fukushima, Japan is still dealing with the effects of dangerous radiation – possibly leaving generations of Japanese to face life in a nuclear disaster zone.

The earthquake this week on the East Coast is a reminder that millions of Americans are at risk of a nuclear disaster. Less than 10 miles from the epicenter in Virginia, the North Anna nuclear plant lost power, and a dozen other nuclear plants experienced unusual events. Luckily, there wasn’t any release of radiation, but it was uncomfortably close North Anna was designed to withstand a 5.9 to 6.2 earthquake and this earthquake was 5.8. These risks exist at every nuclear plant, not just in places like California and Japan. According to a report from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the nuclear plant most at risk of earthquake damage is New York’s Indian Point which threatens more than 17 million people living within 50 miles. And now Indian Point and a dozen other nuclear plants are preparing for the possibility of more damage and loss of power as Hurricane Irene bears down on the East Coast.

Add to this the risk that violent extremists have considered nuclear plants “nice targets” and it’s clear that nuclear power is just too risky. The fact that this risk still exists ten years after September 11 is simply indefensible; it’s time to shut them down.

Check out our new nuclear locator map to see if you are one of the 108 million Americans living within 50 miles of a dangerous nuclear plant, and tell Congress to phase out old nuclear reactors, like Indian Point in New York, that threaten 1 in 3 Americans and support safe, clean energy.

Jim Riccio

By Jim Riccio

Jim Riccio served as Greenpeace’s Nuclear Policy Analyst from 2001 to 2017 and has over two decades of nuclear activist experience. He has been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, and Boston Globe, and has appeared on ABC News, NBC News, Al Jazeera, CNN, the Discovery Channel and the History Channel.

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