Earthquake-Proof Nuclear Plants - Dream or Reality?

Can nuclear power plants be safeguarded to withstand an earthquake of the magnitude anticipated in South Carolina?  This issue is a hot topic and one that hits home for me because Oconee Nuclear Station is located approximately 15 miles from my hometown of Seneca, SC.   In light of the failure of Japan's Fukushima Nuclear Plant in the aftermath of the March 11th earthquake that rocked that region repeatedly for several days, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission conducted an inspection of 104 Nuclear Power Plants in the U.S. to address seismic concerns.  The study included inspections of Oconee Nuclear Power Plant and the Fairfield County atomic energy site in Jenkinsville, South Carolina.

The results of the inspections are troublesome.  As to the Fairfield County site, the NRC said:

  • None of the permanently installed fire protection equipment was "seismically qualified," or designed to function after an earthquake of the size expected in South Carolina.
  • Some firefighting equipment was not kept in buildings or locations that were qualified seismically
  • A berm, or wall, that shields the power plant from flooding was not seismically qualified.  The berm is there to protect the plant if wind-whipped waves from Lake Monticello threaten the facility.

The most troubling news is that many of the reviews of the 104 conducted around the country resulted in findings similar to those at the Fairfield County site.  Thus, this problem is more widespread than just around South Carolina.  This country is beautiful and it should be safeguarded as much as possible.  If there is more that can be done, we should all be pushing to make sure what can be done is, in fact, accomplished.  I can't imagine trying to go home for a day on the lake or hiking in the beautiful Foothills of South Carolina and finding all the beauty that I grew up enjoying destroyed.  I don't want that to happen to me and I don't want that to happen to anyone else.

So, I reccomend that you call your congressman, write your local paper, and try to create a buzz; just do whatever you can to make sure that our country stays beautiful.  We are so blessed to live in a clean, gorgeous country that the least we can do is protect it to the best of our ability.

Adam W. Howell, Esquire

Here is the link to the article in the State by Sammy Fretwell that prompted me to address this issue today: