Global Threat: Nukes in Tsunami Zones

Wednesday, October 24, 2012 @ 05:10 PM gHale

In the aftermath of the disaster at the nuclear facility in Fukushima, Japan, a team of scientists assessed “potentially dangerous” areas for nuclear plants.

By highlighting high-risk zones, they hope that further plans can head off similar disasters. The study is the first to look into the location of nuclear power plants and correlate them to areas at risk of tsunamis.

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“We are dealing with the first vision of the global distribution of civil nuclear power plants situated on the coast and exposed to tsunamis,” said José Manuel Rodríguez-Llanes, co-author of the study and researcher at the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) of the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium.

The authors used historical, archaeological, geological and instrumental records as a base for determining tsunami risk. Their study presented a map of the world’s geographic zones that are more at risk of large tsunamis.

Based on these data, 23 nuclear power plants with 74 reactors are in high-risk areas. One of them includes Fukushima I. Of these, 13 plants with 29 reactors are active; another 4, that now have 20 reactors, are expanding to house 9 more; and there are 7 new plants under construction with 16 reactors.

Despite the fact the risk of these natural disasters threatens practically the entire western coast of the American continent, the Spanish/Portuguese Atlantic Coast and the coast of north Africa, it is the eastern Mediterranean and areas of Oceania, especially in south and south-east Asia, that are at greater risk due to the presence of atomic power stations.

“The impact of natural disaster is getting worse due to the growing interaction with technological installations,” said Debarati Guha-Sapir, another co-author of the study and CRED researcher.

China, one of the world’s fastest growing economies in the world is also where the largest number of nuclear reactors are under construction with 27 of 64 under construction around the world.

“The most important fact is that 19 (2 of which are in Taiwan) out of the 27 reactors are being built in areas identified as dangerous,” the study’s authors said.

Meanwhile in Japan, which served as the inspiration for the study, there are 7 plants with 19 reactors at risk, one of which is currently under construction. South Korea is expanding two plants at risk with five reactors. India (two reactors) and Pakistan (one reactor) could also feel the consequences of a tsunami in the plants.

“The location of nuclear installations does not only have implications for their host countries but also for the areas which could be affected by radioactive leaks,” said Joaquín Rodríguez-Vidal, lead author of the study and researcher at the Geodynamics and Paleontology Department of the University of Huelva, Spain.

The world should learn its lessons from the Fukushima accident, according to the study. Prevention and previous scientific studies are the best tools for avoiding such disasters.

“But since the tsunami in 2004, the Indian Ocean region is still to take effective political measures,” the researchers said.

Fukushima took place in a highly developed country with one of the highest standards in scientific knowledge and technological infrastructure.

“If it had occurred in a country less equipped for dealing with the consequences of catastrophe, the impact would have been a lot more serious for the world at large,” the researchers said.

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