New Mapping Tool Shows Potential Radiation Impacts in the United States

by Matt Ball on March 6, 2012

The National Resource Defense Council has launched a new map that show the potential radiation damage from severe accidents at the nation’s nuclear reactors. The site launched at the one-year anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, and aims at raising awareness about the heightened need for further safety mandates at U.S. reactors.

The map shows the location of the 104 individual reactor sites, and incorporates weather patterns to show where radioactive plumes would have dispersed if any one of these reactors had failed. The plume distance and width are based on weather patterns of March 11-12, 2011. The NRDC calculates that there are 6 million Americans living within 10 miles of a nuclear power plant, and more than 120 million living within 50 miles from a plant, the area that was evacuated around the Fukushima plant.

Five nuclear power plants lost primary power due to tornadoes, hurricanes and flooding in 2011 alone, and weather is just one of the variables that have impacted reactors. The age and type of reactors are also a factor as demonstrated by the age-related issues faced at Fukushima. Risks from earthquakes are another issue, and while the risk assessment for seismic impacts is underway it has been estimated to take another seven years before the detailed evaluations from each plant are processed and analyzed.

Putting the potential impacts of nuclear disasters on a map is a good way to illustrate the potential impacts close to home. The resources aligned to the map provide a detailed picture of risks, and the potential escalation of those risks as the reactors age.

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