New Risks for Nuclear Plants via The Wall Street Journal

Nuclear reactors in the central and eastern U.S. face previously unrecognized threats from big earthquakes, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Tuesday. Experts said upgrading the plants to withstand more substantial earth movements would be costly and could force some to close.

Threat by Land and Sea

Dozens of nuclear reactors operate in earthquake-prone regions around the world. Among them, least 34 are in high-hazard areas; 17 of those are within a mile of a coastline.

The NRC said it would require nuclear-plant operators to conduct new seismic studies for all 96 reactors in eastern and central states to determine if the plants could withstand the shaking predicted by the government’s new seismic model.

Updating the U.S. survey of past seismic activity became urgent after a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami devastated northeastern Japan last March. The event overwhelmed the defenses of reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi site, causing widespread damage and radioactive releases. The earthquake exceeded the level for which the reactors had been designed, calling into question earlier seismic assessments.

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