Controversy over mapping of an earthquake zone to measure vulnerability of a nuclear power plant: public safety vs. environment. I wonder who’s right? Locals, environmental groups, and a Coastal Commission are opposing a project that will use a type of high-powered sonar under water to help create a map of any potential earthquake zones. The map will give planners and emergency managers (and the state of California) a snap-shot of how vulnerable this power plant is, and what the potential damage could be in case of an earthquake.
Those that oppose the mapping say that the methods used - high powered air-cannons - will harm wildlife.
It’s an interesting question, and one that will come up many times over the next few dozen years or so as states begin to inventory their vulnerabilities to environmental harms.
In my opinion, the opposition must meet a high-burden of proof - both scientifically and in public opinion. Sometimes opposition groups (especially environmental activists) need to weigh their actions vs disenfranchising themselves.
Here, a few groups are arguing against a risk assessment of a nuclear power plant’s vulnerability to earthquakes. The argument, it seems to me, is the short term, unproven potential affects on an unknowable number of marine animals vs. the long-term safety of an energy source that provides electricity to tens of thousands of people (hundreds of thousands if you count temporally). In other words, it’s 12-days of mapping off-shore, underwater vs 23,000 days of safety and clean energy onshore.
This is not a case of “finding a fair balance”. It’s a case of context and short-sightedness not being included in the opposition’s calculations. So, who’s right? What can be done to resolve this situation?
PG&E plans to use underwater ‘air cannons’ emitting 250-decibel blasts every 15 seconds for 12 straight days to map earthquake fault zones near Diablo Canyon nuclear plant.
By Louis Sahagun, Los Angeles Times | September 29, 2012
photo: The Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant near San Luis Obispo, Calif. PG&E was ordered by the California Public Utilities Commission to conduct the risk assessment. (Phil Klein, Associated Press / April 26, 2001)
Over objections of Central Coast residents and environmental groups, Pacific Gas & Electric plans to map earthquake fault zones near its Diablo Canyon nuclear plant by blasting high-decibel air cannons under the surface of the ocean.
PG&E’s plan calls for towing a quarter-mile-wide array of underwater “air cannons” that emit 250-decibel blasts into the ocean every 15 seconds for 12 straight days. The sonic reflections would be picked up by underwater receivers and analyzed to provide detailed 3-D images of the geometry, relationships and ground motions of several fault zones near the Diablo facility, which generates enough energy to meet the needs of more than 3 million Northern and Central Californians.
“What we’re after with this survey is the geophysical equivalent of a CT scan — a combination of imagery and information that we could slice and dice and scrutinize in great detail,” said Jearl Strickland, director of nuclear projects for PG&E. “These kinds of surveys are being performed right now around the world with no problems.”
Opponents say the method threatens sea creatures from Central Coast rockfish to whales, and they dispute PG&E’s claims that there are no alternative, less harmful technologies available for the job.
Overcrowded hospitals in northwestern Iran struggled to cope with thousands of earthquake victims on Sunday and rescuers raced to reach remote villages after two powerful quakes killed nearly 300 people.
Thousands huddled in makeshift camps or slept in the street after Saturday’s quakes in fear of more aftershocks, 60 of which had already struck. A lack of tents and other supplies left them exposed to the night chill, one witness told Reuters.
A Harley-Davidson motorcycle swept away by Japan tsunami washes up on Canada coast
Objects and debris from last year’s tsunami, carried by ocean currents, have been washing up with increasing frequency on the west coast of Canada and the United States.
Recent discoveries include a soccer ball and a volleyball that were swept away in Iwate prefecture and washed ashore on Alaska’s Middleton Island. The items were returned to their Japanese owners.
The Maritime Museum of BC last week launched the Tsunami Debris Project, an online effort to collect photos of flotsam that has washed ashore, with the hope that some items can be reunited with their owners.
The magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami killed more than 15,000 people and crippled several nuclear plants. Tons of debris were swept into the Pacific Ocean.
Threatens millions of lives. Possible government corruption. China has 87,000 dams and reservoirs, many used for hydropower and thousands already on fault zone. Dam breaks from earthquakes exacerbate environmental destruction.
“More than 130 large dams built, under construction, or proposed in western China’s seismic hazard zones could trigger disastrous environmental consequences such as earthquakes and giant waves, finds a new report from the Canadian watchdog group Probe International.
The report shows that 98.6 percent of the dams being constructed in western China are located in high to moderate seismic hazard zones.
The location of large dams near clusters of recorded earthquakes with magnitudes greater than 4.9, and especially when the earthquake focal points are also close to the surface, “is cause for grave concern,” said the report’s author geologist “John Jackson.”
John Jackson is a pseudonym for a geologist with detailed knowledge of western China who wishes to remain anonymous to protect his sources.
In a worst-case scenario, Jackson reports, dams could collapse, creating a giant wave that would inundate everything in its path, including downstream dams, causing great loss of life and property.
Should a dam suffer catastrophic collapse, says Probe International Executive Director Patricia Adams, Chinese citizens could direct their anger to the hydropower industry for threatening their lives with dangerous dams.
To pierce the Chinese government’s secrecy over its dam building, the Probe report overlays a Chinese map of dam locations with U.S. Geological Survey earthquake data and a United Nations’ seismic hazard map.”
One year after the devastating tsunami in Japan sent a wall of water that overtook much of eastern Japan, it seems that debris from that tragedy is making its way to the shores of California. It is estimated that 20 million tons of debris was swept out at sea, and many experts predicted that it would end up in the “great Pacific garbage patch,” which is the swirling area in the Pacific that has become a holding ground for plastic and other floating debris.
According to a recent New York Times article, a month after the tsunami the debris was no longer visible in NOAA’s satellite images. And, to assist in the search, officials have requested higher-resolution satellite images from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA).
Yu Muroga was doing his job making deliveries when the 11 March 2011 earthquake hit in Japan. Unaware, like many people in the area, of how far inland the Tsunami would travel, he continued to drive and do his job. The HD camera mounted on his dashboard captured not only the earthquake, but also the moment he and several other drivers were suddenly engulfed in the Tsunami. He escaped from the vehicle seconds before it was crushed by other debris and sunk underwater. His car and the camera have only recently been recovered by the police. The camera was heavily damaged but a video expert was able to retrieve this footage.
All is OK, energy company states - that is until someone’s property is damaged, or worse, gets killed.
“When two small earthquakes struck near Blackpool, England in April and May, suspicious eyes turned toward the hydraulic fracturing operation in the area. In a move few expected, Cuadrilla Resources, admitted that its shale fracking operations were indeed responsible.
In a press release issued today, Cuadrilla explained the findings of an investigation of the tremors:
It is highly probable that the hydraulic fracturing of Cuadrilla’s Preese Hall-1 well did trigger a number of minor seismic events.
The seismic events were due to an unusual combination of geology at the well site coupled with the pressure exerted by water injection as part of operations.
This combination of geological factors was extremely rare and would be unlikely to occur together again at future well sites.
Cuadrilla insists that the event was extremely rare and unlikely to do any damage if it ever recurred. But whether or not it’s right, the fact that humans are causing earthquakes as well as global warming is likely to make the idea of fracking much less palatable.
A blog about the interactions between the built environment, people, and nature.
I'm a climate change consultant specializing in climate adaptation, environmental law, and urban planning based in the U.S. In addition to traveling and hiking, I research, publish, and lecture on how cities can adapt to climate change.
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