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Indian Point 3 Ranked Highest in Risk of Failure from Earthquakes

Indian PointA study by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has found that the Indian Point 3 reactor in Westchester County has the highest risk of serious damage and catastrophic failure in the event of a regional earthquake.

The Commission calculated the odds of catastrophic failure for all US nuclear reactors under its watch, and found the Westchester nuclear reactor to be the most susceptible to its core being damaged and the public being exposed to harmful levels of radiation.

At the typical U.S. nuclear reactor, there’s a 1 in 74,176 chance each year that the core could be damaged from the effects an earthquake (the effects of a secondary event, such as a tsunami are not calculated). But the chance of a core damage from a quake at Indian Point 3 is calculated to be a mere 1 in 10,000 each year.

And according to Nuclear Regulatory Commission specifications, that’s dangling on the edge of what it deems “immediate concern regarding adequate protection” of the public.”

Recently, a seismologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory stated that the New York City area is past due for a significant earthquake. Won-Young Kim told Metro New York that ‘€œit can happen anytime soon,’€ and that ‘€œwe can expect it any minute, we just don’t know when and where.’€

The New York City area sits on top of the Ramapo Fault Zone, which spans more than 185 miles in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

A 2008 study by Lamont-Doherty argued that a magnitude 6 or 7 earthquake was destined to originate from the Ramapo Fault Zone. The study also discovered that there was an additional fault zone extending from the Ramapo Fault Zone into Southwestern Connecticut and running just one mile from the Indian Point nuclear power plant.

However, Entergy Nuclear Northeast, which runs the plant,  frequently states that all of its reactors can withstand a significant earthquake.

The Indian Point 2 reactor is rated the 25th most susceptible to the effects of a significant earthquake with a 1 in 30,303 chance each year.

A version of this article can be found at Left of the Hudson: Progressive News and Views for the Lower Hudson Valley.

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