Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Impacts of Japan quake roll across Arizona

It was standing room only at the Arizona Corporation Commission special hearing in Phoenix yesterday on safety of Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station [right, credit APS], in light of the reactor disaster in Japan.

At the same time, 1500 showed up at the University of Arizona for a forum by experts on a range of quake related topics.

The ACC hearing room drew a phalanx of power plant officials, at least some opponents of nuclear power, and a bevy of reporters - tv, radio, and print.

AZGS has not testified before the ACC in a long time, so I was asked to provide a brief explanation of our role in natural hazards, including the statewide broadband seismic network we've been operating for the past 3 years.

It was on the drive home to Tucson, listening to the news, that I realized this was the first public hearing in the U.S. on nuclear plant safety since the Japan quake, which helps explain not only the local interest but the national attention being paid to it.

Palo Verde was described as having the 18th highest risk in the U.S. from earthquakes by MSNBC, but the Nuclear Regulatory Commission came out last week disavowing the entire report. An NRC spokeswoman, Lara Uselding, is quoted, “It was an incomplete report on the overall research that had been done by the NRC. Somebody at MSNBC took numbers and threw them together to create the rankings. We have said that is not accurate because the NRC does not rank plants by seismic risk.”

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