Nuclear power plants located in tsunami risk zones

Oct 18, 2012
Nuclear power plants located in tsunami risk zones
Credit: IAEA

On March 11 2011, the world watched in awe at the sheer destructive power of the tsunami that struck Japan. The tsunami followed an earthquake off the east coast of Japan, which reached 9.0 on the Richter scale - the largest quake ever to hit Japan. The ensuing tsunami swept across cities and farmland in the northern part of the country, killing as many as 20,000 people. In the wake of the tsunami, however, another disaster emerged, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, which has been referred to by some as the largest nuclear disaster since the Chernobyl disaster of 1986.

Scientists have highlighted this disaster as a wake-up call, and one team of scientists has assessed 'potentially dangerous' areas that are home to completed or those under construction. By highlighting high-risk zones, they hope that further plans can be implemented to head off similar disasters.

The study is the first to look into the location of nuclear and correlate them to areas at risk of tsunamis. 'We are dealing with the first vision of the of plants situated on the coast and exposed to tsunamis,' explained 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. To inform their analysis, the authors used historical, archaeological, geological and instrumental records as a base for determining tsunami risk.

Their study, published in the journal Natural Hazards, presented a map of the world's geographic zones that are more at risk of large tsunamis. Based on these data, 23 with 74 reactors have been identified 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 being expanded to house 9 more; and there are 7 new plants under construction with 16 reactors.

Despite the fact that 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.

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

China, one of the world's fastest growing economies in the world is also where the largest number of nuclear reactors are being constructed: some 27 of 64 that are currently 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,' state the authors of the study.

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 ) 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,' outlined Joaquín Rodríguez-Vidal, lead author of the study and researcher at the Geodynamics and Paleontology Department of the University of Huelva, Spain.

According to the study, we should learn our lessons from the Fukushima accident. For the authors, 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,' warn the researchers.

The crisis 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,' claim the experts. Therefore, Professor Rodríguez-Vidal recommends the drafting of more local analyses that consider the seismic amplification of each plant and determine the adaptation of installation identified in the study.

Explore further: Going nuts? Turkey looks to pistachios to heat new eco-city

More information: Rodríguez-Vidal, J. et al. 'Civil nuclear power at risk of tsunamis', Natural Hazards, 2012 63 (2) : 1273-1278. doi: 10.1007/s11069-012-0162-0
earthobservatory.nasa.gov/NaturalHazards/

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

23 nuclear power plants are in tsunami risk areas

Sep 21, 2012

The tsunami in Japan in March 2011 unleashed a series of negligence related with the resulting nuclear disaster. A scientific study headed by Spanish researchers has for the first time identified those atomic ...

Today's plants far safer than Fukushima: US expert

Sep 15, 2011

Today's nuclear reactors are "much safer" than the Japanese plant damaged in this year's earthquake and tsunami, a US expert said Thursday, citing dramatic improvements that could prevent similar disasters.

New U.S. nuclear reactors unlikely soon: physicist

Apr 15, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Japanese officials increased the nuclear crisis level at the Fukushima plant on Monday to match that of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. But, unlike the Soviet disaster, most of the radiation ...

Japan vows to continue nuclear plant exports

Aug 05, 2011

Japan said Friday it will continue exporting atomic power plants, despite uncertainty over its own use of them as it continues to grapple with a crisis at the tsunami-hit Fukushima nuclear plant.

France must improve nuke plants 'without delay'

Nov 17, 2011

France must immediately improve safety at its nuclear power plants so they can deal with natural disasters in the wake of Japan's Fukushima accident, an industry body said Thursday.

Recommended for you

Obama launches measures to support solar energy in US

Apr 17, 2014

The White House Thursday announced a series of measures aimed at increasing solar energy production in the United States, particularly by encouraging the installation of solar panels in public spaces.

Tailored approach key to cookstove uptake

Apr 17, 2014

Worldwide, programs aiming to give safe, efficient cooking stoves to people in developing countries haven't had complete success—and local research has looked into why.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...

A homemade solar lamp for developing countries

(Phys.org) —The solar lamp developed by the start-up LEDsafari is a more effective, safer, and less expensive form of illumination than the traditional oil lamp currently used by more than one billion people ...

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...