The ever-continuing crisis in Japan is heart-breaking. The disaster hat-trick (earthquake, tsunami, nuclear danger) reads like something out of an old Irwin Allen movie. But this is real-life. And death.
Fears of meltdown have spread throughout the world, bringing concern to many people about the nuclear power plants near where they live. Have I mentioned that I live ten miles from two nuclear reactors?
The Japanese disaster has forced the Nuclear Regulatory Agency to rethink its previous assessments about the degree of safety at the 104 nuclear power plants in the U.S. Surprisingly, the riskiest plants are located on the East Coast. At the two Calvert Cliffs nuclear reactors, my neighbors, the risk factor is now 40 to 43 percent higher than previously calculated. (These risk factors, by the way, are based on "worst-case" scenarios.) Both reactors seem to relatively safe: one is listed (with four other reactors) in 57th place; the other is listed at 67th place. This means that the chances of catastrophic failure due to earthquake at the first is 1 in 83,333 in any given year; chances for failure at the second is 1 in 1,000,000. Both plants were evidently built to withstand a 7.5 earthquake, the same as the reactors in Japan.
Plans have been off-and-on underway for a third reactor, the first to be built in the U.S. in a number of years. Financing has been tricky, though, and has fallen through with at least one major partner. With the problems in Japan, the project will surely face more delays, and possibly cancellation.
I am not very concerned living close to nuclear power plants. I am more concerned about the LNG terminals five miles away, midway between my house and the nuclear facililty. Even that doesn't bother much; I worked several years for General Dynamics where they were building LNG carriers and I am very familiar with all the safety issues. Natural disasters? Not so much. I'm on high ground so floods and tidal waves won't bother me. The county next to us is a tornado magnet; my area isn't. The biggest danger in my area would come from terrorists targeting the reactors or the LNG tanks. Did I mention that Southern Maryland is just outside Washington, D.C.?)
There is no safe place to live anywhere in the world. There never has been. Life is a crap shoot and I am quite aware of how fragile it is. The best you can do is to take reasonable precautions and go on with your life, enjoying each day to the fullest. Meanwhile, my thoughts and prayers are with the people of Japan and with those of earlier disasters where recovery has not yet fully come -- Haiti, the Guilf Coast, Indonesia, the list goes on and on...