Google Earth maps show populations at risk near nuclear plants

Apr 22, 2011 by Bob Yirka report
A Google Earth map screen from Nature doi:10.1038/472400a

(PhysOrg.com) -- In a novel use of existing technology and data, Nature News in conjunction with Columbia University, has created a Google Earth map that shows the different population sizes surrounding nuclear power plants; ostensibly, to demonstrate the danger threshold of other plants worldwide, compared to the ongoing nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan.

Working with the Power Reactor Information System (PRIS) database run by the (IAEA) to pinpoint the location and size of nuclear plants, both existing and under construction, and Columbia University’s NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center, which runs the Global Rural-Urban Mapping Project, to nail down accurate population numbers, the team was able to put together a Google Earth map that very clearly shows, via colored circles, population density around nuclear facilities.

Because Google Earth maps render the globe in a 3-D like image, it’s easy to skim around and very quickly get a feeling for where the dangers lie. For example, the United States, Europe (including Russia and former members of the USSR), India and China quite obviously have the bulk of nuclear plants, while the entire continents of Africa and South America have just one each, and Australia has none.

And because circle size and color are used to represent population density (number of people living within 75 km [about 47 miles] of a ), it’s also easy to see with just a glance how many people live in areas that would be at risk should a nuclear accident occur in that area.
What stands out is how big the numbers are for some areas; for example, the Guandong plant in China (near Hong Kong) has over twenty eight million people living within 75 kilometers of the 1888 MW plant, which has two reactors. Clicking on one of the circles brings up more details, for example, at the Guandong plant, an astonishing three and a quarter million people live within a 30 km radius; all of whom would likely suffer some rather serious repercussions if the plant were to have an accident on the scale of the Fukushima disaster.

Of course, what’s not shown in these maps are confidence measures to show how safe the plants actually are, which even if they did exist, would be based on assumptions and suppositions, likely created by the very same people that were operating them; not exactly a situation that would warm the heart. And while the Google Earth maps created by Nature News and Columbia University certainly are eye opening, it does make you wonder if in the end, it’s not just another case of a study generating shock value without creating anything of actual use; after all, is it likely that any of the plants will be moved simply because now everyone knows how many people live around them?

Explore further: Actions on climate change bring better health, study says

More information: Reactors, residents and risk, Published online 21 April 2011. Nature doi:10.1038/472400a

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User comments : 24

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arltdz
3.9 / 5 (7) Apr 22, 2011
So the conclusion of this article is:
Run for the hills!! It's a meltdown!! The end is near!

Oh wait, even if it would happen meltdown != nuclear bomb...
Modernmystic
2.3 / 5 (6) Apr 22, 2011
LOL the article is from "Nature"...might as well get the efficacy of Coal plants from this periodical...

http://www.coalnews.net/
LKD
3.4 / 5 (5) Apr 22, 2011
Ah more inexcusable ignorance wrapped in sensationalism.

We have Yucca mountain to avoid any chance of this happening in the US. But of course, we aren't allowed to use it...
JimB135
not rated yet Apr 22, 2011
bummer.... I live under the bubble extending into southeast Michigan.
damnfuct
4.2 / 5 (10) Apr 22, 2011
News flash: people are living around nuclear power plants. Up next, the sky is blue.
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (4) Apr 22, 2011
Oh wait, even if it would happen meltdown != nuclear bomb...

Yes. A meltdown (if coupled with a breach of containment) releases a lot more radioactivity into the surrounding area than a nuclear bomb.
MadLintElf
5 / 5 (1) Apr 22, 2011
I live in NYC, no hope for us!

Noumenon
3.8 / 5 (70) Apr 22, 2011
More reactionary doltism, the same that resulted in a moratorium on Gulf drilling after one in probable accident.

The same group of idiots who are against nuclear, wants us off carbon based energy. Can't have it both ways.

For a more intelligent analysis,...
http://www.askher...pproved/
PinkElephant
3.7 / 5 (3) Apr 22, 2011
LOL the article is from "Nature"...might as well get the efficacy of Coal plants from this periodical...
Idiot. Nature is one of the most respected and prestigious academic journals.
Modernmystic
3 / 5 (2) Apr 22, 2011
LOL the article is from "Nature"...might as well get the efficacy of Coal plants from this periodical...
Idiot. Nature is one of the most respected and prestigious academic journals.


AND unbiased....c'mon pink. I may be more to the right on most issues, but that doesn't mean I can't recognize the bias in Fox News....
PinkElephant
3.7 / 5 (6) Apr 22, 2011
AND unbiased
Yes, unbiased. It's not a political journal, it's a SCIENTIFIC one. Have you ever actually subscribed to it and/or read it? Or are you bloviating like a Fox News hack?
Howhot
1 / 5 (2) Apr 22, 2011
Well, good article! It shows how a Fukashima(sp) event would effect large populations of the US. I subscribe to "Nature" and I like it.

Doug_Huffman
4.2 / 5 (5) Apr 23, 2011
That begs the meaning, modus ponens, of 'subscribe'. John Hancock subscribed the Constitution of the United States. Indeed, DeFacedBook distributes 'Like' buttons to all sorts of looney causes.

A precept of risk calculus is that nuclear power entails risk magnitudes proximate to those tolerated in every day life. Deal with it.
Alexander_Herrmann
not rated yet Apr 23, 2011
Using the overlay together with the USGS overlay for earthquakes sure provides some entertainment. Damn missed .. next one maybe,
lifewebb
3.7 / 5 (3) Apr 23, 2011
What I notice about this article is the failure to mention safety records and safety measures being taken every hour of every day in nuclear power plants. Why is that? I believe that Physorg is run by people who wish to stoke anti-nuclear sentiment. Either give us the story about the Google map PLUS the facts about safety procedures or don't do the story. For anyone interested, here is the report on safety at the US power plants in 2010. http://news.yahoo.../DC87691 How about Physorg doing a story on this??
Noumenon
4 / 5 (63) Apr 24, 2011
A precept of risk calculus is that nuclear power entails risk magnitudes proximate to those tolerated in every day life. Deal with it.


Exactly correct! As a remarkable example, since Chernobyl 1,000,000 (one million!!!) people have died in car crashes just in the USA,.... that's 40,000 per year.
hush1
5 / 5 (2) Apr 24, 2011
Well, Germany can't get insurance coverage for their nuclear plants. (Must be the 'old world' stigma).

And in the entire world there is not a single, permanently approved, permanent underground storage facility for used rods.

Maybe there is instant transmutation of all radioactive waste and material into nonradioactive substances. Then insurance companies might reconsider what was unacceptable for them.
Vendicar_Decarian
1 / 5 (4) Apr 24, 2011
"Exactly correct! As a remarkable example, since Chernobyl 1,000,000 (one million!!!) people have died in car crashes just in the USA,.... that's 40,000 per year." - whatever

Then it is logical to conclude that killing 1 million Americans per Chernobyl reactor makes good business sense.
PinkElephant
5 / 5 (2) Apr 24, 2011
@Noumenon,
As a remarkable example, since Chernobyl 1,000,000 (one million!!!) people have died in car crashes just in the USA,.... that's 40,000 per year.
How many millions of acres of valuable real estate have become uninhabitable as a result of car crashes since Chernobyl?
Shootist
3.4 / 5 (5) Apr 25, 2011
@Noumenon,
As a remarkable example, since Chernobyl 1,000,000 (one million!!!) people have died in car crashes just in the USA,.... that's 40,000 per year.
How many millions of acres of valuable real estate have become uninhabitable as a result of car crashes since Chernobyl?


There is no valuable real estate in Ukraine. Radioactive, or otherwise.
LKD
1 / 5 (1) Apr 25, 2011
How many millions of acres of valuable real estate have become uninhabitable as a result of car crashes since Chernobyl?


Regarding radiation? None of it. Life has a funny way of dealing with radiation. Mainly? It does just fine. People on the other hand may have reservations about the risk...
PinkElephant
5 / 5 (1) Apr 25, 2011
@Noumenon,
As a remarkable example, since Chernobyl 1,000,000 (one million!!!) people have died in car crashes just in the USA,.... that's 40,000 per year.
How many millions of acres of valuable real estate have become uninhabitable as a result of car crashes since Chernobyl?


There is no valuable real estate in Ukraine. Radioactive, or otherwise.
Yeah, I'm sure Ukrainians would wholeheartedly agree with you.

However, do you think there's any valuable real estate in the New York metropolitan area, or in the San Diego metro area? Just curious: what your definition of "valuable" might be...
Modernmystic
1 / 5 (1) Apr 25, 2011
AND unbiased
Yes, unbiased. It's not a political journal, it's a SCIENTIFIC one. Have you ever actually subscribed to it and/or read it...


Yes I have, and yes it is biased on some issues. This happens to be one of them.
toaster
not rated yet Apr 25, 2011
@PinkElephant: Nature is a for-profit journal and thus not immune to bias.