Saturday, November 02, 2013

Hanford nuke plant’s earthquake risk underestimated, group says

(Seattle Times) Sandi Doughton
A new analysis by an anti-nuclear organization says earthquake risks were seriously underestimated when the state’s only commercial nuclear-power plant was built almost 30 years ago on the Hanford nuclear reservation.
Seismic studies since then have uncovered more faults, extended the length of previously known faults and challenged the assumption that large quakes are not likely in the area, says the report from the Washington and Oregon chapters of Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR). Geologists now believe one fault passes a scant 2.3 miles from the 1,170-megawatt plant called the Columbia Generating Station (CGS).
The new evidence suggests that the region could be rocked by shaking two to three times stronger than the plant was designed for, said Terry Tolan, the veteran geologist who prepared the report for PSR.
“No seismic structural upgrades have been made at the Columbia Generating Station despite all of the geologic evidence that has been assembled over the past thirty years which has dramatically increased the seismic risk at this site,” Tolan wrote.
The physician’s group submitted the report to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on Friday, along with a letter calling on NRC Chairwoman Allison Macfarlane to shut down the reactor until it is upgraded to withstand stronger quakes.
Macfarlane defended the power plant in her response to an earlier letter. “The NRC continues to conclude that CGS has been designed, built and operated to safely withstand earthquakes likely to occur in its region,” she wrote in September. Read More