Is the Next Fukushima in Your Backyard?

By now, everyone knows that Japan recently suffered a major earthquake registering 9.0 on the Richter scale. The resulting tsunami swallowed whole towns, upending both the island and its people. In parts of Japan, Armageddon came early.

Japan is dependent on nuclear power for nearly a quarter of its electricity. 17 different nuclear power plants house a total of 55 nuclear reactors. The Fukushima power plant houses six of those reactors. It’s here, in Fukushima, that this latest nuclear tragedy continues to unfold—slowly and with no immediate end in sight.

If there’s one word for nuclear, that word would be HOT. Temperatures at the core of a BWR (boiling water reactor) like the ones found at Fukushima typically reach 545 degrees Fahrenheit

The quake damaged the cooling systems that the plant relies on to control the temperature at the core of the reactors. Approximately 155 miles north of Tokyo, the fear of a nuclear meltdown at Fukushima, along with the potential for a dispersal of radioactive material into the atmosphere, has caused great concern.

The world is holding its collective breath in the hope that the brave worker-heroes who are risking their lives to remain on-site will be able to stave off a disaster of biblical proportion. Meanwhile, a question is being asked by those living in and around nuclear facilities here in the US and elsewhere:

Are we next? Will the next major earthquake create another Fukushima at the nuclear power plant that’s in my own backyard?

In contrast to Japan, the United States currently uses nuclear power to generate some 20% of its electricity and is home to 104 nuclear reactors located in 65 separate plants scattered throughout 31 states. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission breaks the states up into four separate regions in terms of listing where those plants are located.

Region I (Northeast)
Nuclear Plants: 26
Nuclear Reactors: 17
R&T (Research and Test) Reactors: 24

Region II (Southeast)
Nuclear Plants: 33
Nuclear Reactors: 18
R&T Reactors: 17

Region III (Midwest)
Nuclear Plants: 24
Nuclear Reactors: 16
R&T Reactors: 19

Region IV (West)
Nuclear Plants: 21
Nuclear Reactors: 14
R&T Reactors: 40

What has so many people concerned is that many nuclear plants within the US lie in areas that are earthquake-prone (see map above) and that are near fault lines that could rupture as the result of an earthquake. Should the unthinkable happen, it’s worth asking the question, “Are those plants susceptible to accidents similar to the accidents that happened at the plant in Fukushima?”

It would be irresponsible for me, as a lay person, to draw definitive conclusions with the small amount of data available. It is extremely responsible, however, to paint a picture that hints at the danger that a sizable portion of the US population faces should there be an earthquake-related accident at one of the nuclear facilities in one or more of these earthquake-prone areas.

It’s said that a picture is worth a thousand words. For you folks living in some of the areas highlighted in orange, red, or pink on this map, I’d suggest using some of those words to ask questions of your state and local politicians before it’s too late.

For more Care2 coverage on the Japanese humanitarian disaster, click here.

Take Action: Sign the petition to tell Obama to stop subsidizing nuclear energy.


Photo credit: Map derived from data found on U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program websites.


KARLOLINA G5 years ago

The Bush administration and the Republican controlled Congress have paved the way for those who wish to proliferate nuclear waste at a profit by enacting legislation like the Energy Policy Act of 2005 with its loan guarantees and cost-overrun support of up to $2 billion, spread over as many as six plants. Or how about the production tax credit of 1.8 cents/kWh for six years, totaling as much as $125 million annually. And hopefully we will never have to reap the benefits of the legislation that absolves the nuclear industry from responsibility for any catastrophic results of its incompetent, greedy or otherwise mismanaged actions.

At this time the disaster at Fukushima continues, as the corrupt owners of the reactors continue to release radioactivity into the air and water, as this crippled facility continues to poison the people who live around it. Coverage of this major problem has already fallen out of the news cycle as issues surrounding the death of bin Laden and terrorism force this important issue out of the minds of people. President Obama unfortunately is beholden to the Nuclear industry due to their significant support of him. Even with the Fukushima plant in tatters the President vows to have the same company that lied about safety issues at Fukushima build mega reactors in Texas.

Michele M.
Michele M5 years ago

After what happened in Japan Germany will shut down all the Nuclear power plants in the next years to come. People voted for that and the Government listens. USA should learn from that and do something about it before it;s to late

Michele M.
Michele M5 years ago

After what happened in Japan Germany will shut down all the Nuclear power plants in the next years to come. People voted for that and the Government listens. USA should learn from that and do something about it before it;s to late

Karen Nelson
m nielsen5 years ago

The earthquake did not damage the nuclear reactors. The problem began when the tsunami took out the back up electric generators which were located in a low area of the site and in some instances, on the first floor of the reactor buildings, which flooded. This is a design problem, a severe design problem. Had the back-up electric systems for the pumps not been cut off, there would be no problem. And then today comes news that one of the reactor vessels had a known fault in its side, almost a crack if you will, left over from its construction. The guy who kept it secret all these years should be on the crews risking their lives to fix it, and he should be the first one in the door.

Lynnette Bower
Lynnette Bower5 years ago

Get rid of nuclear anything. It is bad for living things (you know, like us).

Chavonne Harvey
Chavonne H5 years ago

I never knew to fear it but looks like there's a lot near new jersey.

David K.
David K5 years ago

New Zealand has no nuclear power stations. But they should NEVER be built anywhere because of the necessity to guard the radioactive waste for centuries after decommissioning. It is a myth that they do not contribute to GHgases because the mining and processing of uranium generates vast amounts of GHG approximating to the GHG emitted from equivalent fuelled power stations. All countries using nuclear PStations subsidise their operation and decommissioning. Of course the ethics of making plutonium are indefensible because it is so very dangerous to any life form. Hot Rock, Hydro, Wind Wave and tides are all acceptible ways to generate power. Carbon fossils also should be retained for use as a chemical feedstock, it is profligate to burn themmerely for their energy content. This is robbing future generatins of their birthright.

Tim Cheung
Tim C5 years ago

God, no..

Sylvia A.
Sylvia Addington5 years ago

After what happened in Japan we need to go solar and wind power not more nuclear, They need to be dismantled and abolished. You want some countries not to have nuclear weapons well these are to us. Get rid of them and make no more.

William Seuffert
William Seuffert5 years ago

to bad we all couldnt live like the amish. hell there aint anything good on tv any more any ways.