Nuclear power is under the microscope as much of the world watches the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake and the resulting tsunamis.
Fires near Japanese nuclear power plants are forcing evacuations and concerns for all the obvious reasons. Those concerns have traveled across the Pacific to California, where nuclear power plants are being shut down.
Let’s take a look at which nuclear power plants sit in the seismically active areas of the United States.
Generally, this concern is focused on the West Coast of the United States, because that's where most of our large earthquakes have occurred. There are no nuclear power plants in Hawaii or Alaska, but there are four nuclear reactor sites along the West Coast — one nuclear reactor site in Washington, two in California and one in Arizona. Here's a link to an interesting site, nukepills.com, where you can see the location of all nuclear power plants as well as the theoretical fallout zones.
Below, you can see the locations of the power plants, minus the fallout zones:
Now, these are just the power plants. There is a whole other issue with non-power nuclear reactors. These aren’t power plants, but research facilities such as universities where smaller-scale reactors are located. In all, there are eight of these sites along the West Coast. One is in Arizona, four are in California, two are in Oregon and one is in Washington. In all, the United States has 36 of these smaller sites, which can be seen below:
As you can see, most of the nuclear power plants and research facilities lie in the middle of the country. A good number that lie the West Coast are in the most seismically active parts of the nation, as this map from the United States Geological Survey shows:
Over the course of history, the concerns surrounding the nuclear industry have been focused on accidents that occurred despite safety regulations. This is what caused Chernobyl, and what has been blamed for the cause of Three Mile Island. While earthquakes and tsunamis can't be controlled, we can control what we know. And these maps allow us to know where the risks lie when it comes to nuclear industry and earthquakes.