The historic earthquake that shut down Dominion Resources Inc's (D.N) North Anna nuclear plant in Virginia last week may have shaken the plant more than it was designed to withstand, the U.S. nuclear regulator said on Monday.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said it has dispatched a special team of inspectors to the Virginia plant that was rocked by the 5.8 magnitude earthquake last week, after initial reviews from Dominion indicated the ground motion may have exceeded the plant's design parameters. [...]
The NRC has been reviewing the ability of U.S. plants to cope with major disasters after a massive earthquake and tsunami nearly led to a complete meltdown at Japan's Fukushima nuclear complex earlier this year --- the world's worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.
The article also notes that the task force involved has "urged a shift" in the NRC safety protocols so that nuclear plant operators would be required to have plans for natural disasters worse than what the plant was specifically designed to withstand. Wait—what? They currently don't have to plan for what might happen if they get an earthquake (flood, hurricane, etc.) that is more severe than the plant was designed to handle? What was the old non-plan, for everyone to just run like hell?
In Fukushima, disaster came about because of two separate (but closely linked) events: an earthquake that damaged the plant, followed by a tsunami that flooded critical plant infrastructure. Nobody could have foreseen that those two events would happen at once, we were told, even though Japan has a very long and well-understood history of quake-caused tsunamis.
In this country, the east coast experienced a rare earthquake, closely followed by a hurricane causing extraordinary flooding. In this case, two unrelated and extraordinary natural disasters, coming one on the heels of another. Improbable? Of course. But not impossible. And either earthquake or hurricane could certainly have been much, much worse.
The most obvious lesson to be learned here is that God hates Eric Cantor personally, or at least doesn't care much for his district. Something else to be pointed out, however, is that it may not necessarily a good idea to rely on any infrastructure that, if something happens that the original designers didn't expect, might render an area the size of Rhode Island uninhabitable:
Areas surrounding Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant could remain uninhabitable for decades due to high radiation, the government warned on Saturday as it struggles to clean up after the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. [...]
In a meeting with local officials on Saturday, the government estimated it could take more than 20 years before residents could safely return to areas with current radiation readings of 200 millisieverts per year, and a decade for areas at 100 millisieverts per year. [...]
Japan has banned people from entering within 20 km (12 miles) of the Fukushima plant, located 240 km northeast of Tokyo. Around 80,000 people have been evacuated since the March 11 quake and tsunami and many are living in shelters or temporary homes.
We've gone past the point where "nobody could have foreseen" is a viable excuse. We've foreseen, been there, and done that. The question is what we do in response.
Top Comments for today are here.