NRC Concerned About Seismic Activity Around Nuclear Reactors

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The Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced Wednesday that nuclear reactors in parts of the United States might be more vulnerable to earthquakes than previously thought.

The closest reactor to New York City is the Indian Point nuclear plant in Westchester County; neighboring New Jersey has three additional plants and Connecticut has one.

Indian Point has long been controversial due to its age and its proximity to both New York City and the Ramapo Fault line, which runs through New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

While the plant will re-evaluate its facilities given the NRC’s report, “an initial review leads us to believe that no major changes will be needed and current protections are sufficient,” said Indian Point spokesperson Jerry Nappi, adding that the plant is designed to withstand earthquakes 100 times greater than have historically been seen in the area around the plant.

The NRC report comes in the wake of Japan’s devastating earthquake in March 2011, which triggered a tsunami and a nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

The agency has been working to update its data on seismic activity since 2005, but took on new urgency in the wake of Fukushima, said NRC spokesperson Neil Sheehan.

“We are seeing now a slightly greater risk of earthquake activity,” said Sheehan, of the report’s findings. “Calculations now show an increase in the level of ground movement than might be expected.”

The East Coast got a jolt last August when a 5.8 magnitude earthquake in Virgnia, shaking buildings in the tri-state area.

The report examined the central and eastern region of the U.S., home to 62 existing sites with 96 commercial nuclear reactors, 22 potential new nuclear sites and five Department of Energy nuclear facilities.

Individual plants will now review the NRC data to determine whether their structures or systems need upgrading, which the NRC said it expects will take at least a year.