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Brian Westenhaus

Brian Westenhaus

Brian is the editor of the popular energy technology site New Energy and Fuel. The site’s mission is to inform, stimulate, amuse and abuse the…

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Nuclear Power Plants at Risk from a Tsunami

Researchers at the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) of the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium have completed and published their study on nuclear power plants with tsunami risk.

The research shows 23 nuclear power plants with 74 reactors have been identified in high tsunami risk areas and one is the now infamous Fukushima.  Thirteen plants with 29 reactors are already operating and another 4 have 20 reactors with nine more reactors to be added.  Seven new plants are under construction with 16 reactors.

Tsunami Damage on a Nuclear Power Plant
Tsunamis are synonymous with the destruction of cities and homes and since The Japanese coast was devastated in March 2011 by a tsunami and now we know tsunamis cause nuclear damage endangering the safety of the population and polluting the environment. Image Credit: IAEA.

Tsunamis threaten the U.S. west coast the Spanish/Portuguese Atlantic Coast and the coast of North Africa, the Eastern Mediterranean and areas of Oceania to a degree.  But the higher risks lie in South and Southeast Asia.

Of considerable note, is that 19 (two of which are in Taiwan) of the 25 new reactors under construction are being built in Chinese areas identified as dangerous.

The research authors used historical, archaeological, geological and instrumental records as a base for determining tsunami risk.  José Manuel Rodríguez-Llanes, co-author of the study said, “We are dealing with the first vision of the global distribution of civil nuclear power plants situated on the coast and exposed to tsunamis.”

Japan has seven plants with 19 reactors at risk, one of which is currently under construction.  South Korea is now expanding two plants at risk with five reactors. India (two reactors) and Pakistan (one reactor) could also feel the consequences of a tsunami at their plants.

This news is sure to fan the flames of the anti-nuclear crowd.

Joaquín Rodríguez-Vidal, lead author of the study and researcher at the Geodynamics and Palaeontology Department of the University of Huelva said, “The location of nuclear installations does not only have implications for their host countries but also for the areas which could be affected by radioactive leaks.”

Keep in mind the Fukushima event took place in a highly developed country with one of the highest standards in scientific knowledge and technological infrastructure with an outstanding emergency response ability.  When such an event takes place in a country less well prepared to handle the consequences of such an event, the impact would be a lot more serious for the world at large.

The point fully overlooked is the circumstance today is a result of the anti-nuclear activities in the past.  The political pressure, fear mongering and special interest outrage has lost the battle. Technological progress and improving living standards has marched on requiring electrical power in huge amounts.

The reaction to nuclear energy has a worthy foundation, but the choice to fight against nuclear power in an absolute way has cost the whole of mankind the opportunity to use the safest and most efficient fuels, the safest, most efficient and lowest cost reactors.

The anti-nuclear special interest has not just lost the war, the nuclear power supply for now and the future is packed completely full of uranium fuelled, light water reactors yielding poor efficiency, huge costs, grave weapons proliferation risks, and hundreds of centuries of disposal problems.

All for acquiescing to an absolute viewpoint.


We could have fuel and reactor choices freed of safety concerns, high efficiency, no weapons risks, and disposal issues virtually non-existent. Much of the technology has been on the shelves for decades.

Tsunamis could have a wakeup effect.  Uranium fuelled light water reactors are a very poor choice.  We’ve had better choices for decades and even more choices have come over the years.
One wonders – is the fear best placed on a special interest who could only vastly increase the risks, media and politicians that cannot serve the interests of the most citizens, extremists and terrorists that may well seize a casket of spent fuel, or the regulations that drag on for decades extending risks into periods measured in lifetimes or centuries.

Nuclear energy by way of fission is a huge resource that has yet to see American leadership seek the best fuel, the best reactors and the safest means to provide very cheap electrical power. It could be today’s choice.

By. Brain Westenhaus

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