It turns out that the 5.9 earthquake that hit Virginia yesterday (and which shook our office here in Boston) was not muchweaker than the “design basis” earthquake of the North Anna nuclear plant, which was designed to withstand an earthquake of 6.2 on the Richter scale.
Would a slightly larger earthquake have caused an emergency situation at North Anna? It’s impossible to know. But the fact that the plant apparently shut down safely is not some sort of feather in the cap of the nuclear industry. Indeed, if we were more reliant on inherently safer forms of energy and less reliant on nuclear power, there would be little need for emergency shutdowns at all!
Unfortunately, it looks as though the nuclear industry will be given yet another opportunity to prove it can avert disaster, with Hurricane Irene preparing to barrel up the East Coast later this week. Keep your fingers crossed.
Associate Director and Senior Policy Analyst, Frontier Group
Tony Dutzik is associate director and senior policy analyst with Frontier Group. His research and ideas on climate, energy and transportation policy have helped shape public policy debates across the U.S., and have earned coverage in media outlets from the New York Times to National Public Radio. A former journalist, Tony lives and works in Boston.