Earthquake Risks – Cover-up at Limerick?

The Alliance For A Clean Environment ACE Website Blog Post

Blog Post #2 – April 29, 2012

Earthquake Risks – Cover-up at Limerick?

What did the company and federal regulators know about earthquake faults near the site of Limerick Nuclear Power Plant, and when did they know it? What risks associated with damage from an earthquake close to the plant were overlooked, or even worse, withheld from the public in order to enable the nuclear plant to be built? Will updated, current information be overlooked in order to approve the request to relicense Limerick for an additional 20 years?

After the Fukushima nuclear disaster, it was reported in March 2011 that Limerick ranked third in the nation on the Earthquake Risk List. The August, 2011, Virginia earthquake resulted in months of shutdown at the North Ana Nuclear Plant, and the tremors were felt at Limerick.

It took nearly five months in 2011, and persistent repeated requests, to get the NRC to even respond to a concerned community member about earthquake fault lines and the Limerick Nuclear Power Plant site. The answer from NRC included a map that showed two fault lines within 17 miles of the plant. The Ramapo Fault was 17 miles away, and the Chalfont Fault was only 9 miles away.

Two residents who had been concerned about earthquake fault risks in the area since the 1970′s contacted ACE, and researched the topic. In April 2012, they found a map in the Pottstown Library, from the 1974 Geological Report for Limerick’s “Preliminary Safety Analysis Report”, which shows that there is also an earthquake fault directly under the Limerick Nuclear Plant site. It is the Sanatoga Fault.

This information was presented to NRC officials at their public meeting on April 18, 2012. NRC officials seemed surprised to learn about the Sanatoga Fault. To date, the NRC is refusing to require a new, or updated, Safety Analysis for Limerick as part of the relicensing process.

Earthquakes are becoming more frequent and severe. A 2012 USGS study confirmed that gas well fracking can cause earthquakes. Since 2007, PA has approved 4,200 natural gas wells. Evidence shows that earthquakes can trigger meltdowns at nuclear plants.

It appears that federal regulators may have “looked the other way” in the 1970′s and 1980′s and ignored several risk factors, including earthquake potential, while allowing the Limerick Nuclear Power Plant to be built contrary to public interest and safety. What can our community expect from the NRC regarding Exelon’s relicensing request?

An updated Safety Analysis would have to consider the presence of all three earthquake fault lines on and near the plant, as well as the updated earthquake risk status of Limerick. Those facts alone should result in closing the plant, not adding 20 more years to the life of licenses for the aging reactors at the site.

Dr. Lewis Cuthbert
ACE President

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