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Nuclear Power Plant Exploded in Fukushima-Japan

The latest new from Japan is that they are trying to prevent a reactor meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. I hope they do prevent it, and that Japan is spared a Chernobyl-type incident that would play havoc with their relatively small island country's ability to house some of it's 127 million inhabitants, not to mention severely damage a portion of its real estate. But, I began to wonder, why would Japan - of all countries! - use nuclear power plants anyway?

1. After being bombed in WWII at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, you'd figure they'd never want to see the word "nuclear" in connection with their homeland again.

2. Building nuclear power plants on top of an intersection of four tectonic plates - the Eurasian, North American, Philippine and Pacific plates - is suicidal, at best.

Well, the answer is, you've gotta provide power to that rather sizable population somehow, and wood, coal or natural gas isn't readily available. So then, I began to wonder, just how many nuclear sites does Japan have? The following map from the INSCDB shows their locations:

Map from INSCDB
According to Wikipedia, Japan has 53 nuclear reactors at those plants.

By contrast - since I was curious - the U.S. has 104 operating reactors in 31 states. Here's the map:

Map from INSCDB
I was shocked to see - being a Westerner all my life - that the majority of them are located on the East Coast. Gee, I guess I don't get out much! In addition, here's some more tidbits to consider:

Like Japan, seven states rely on nuclear power for most of their power. Here's the data from the Nuclear Energy Institute.

Vermont   72.3
New Jersey   55.1
Connecticut   53.4
South Carolina   52.0
Illinois   48.7
New Hamphshire   44.1
Virginia   39.6

Now, from what I've read, Japan encompasses 145,925 square miles of space, that means Japan has (1) nuclear reactor for every 2,753 square miles. By contrast, the U.S. is 3.79 million square miles in size, and therefore has (1) nuclear reactor for every 3,644,230 square feet. Most of them, again, located towards the East Coast.

However, if we take a look at the fault lines or tectonic plates that run underneath the state of California, we may become a little concerned about our own safety. For instance, the Diablo Canyon reactor near San Luis Obispo sits on (4) fault lines, and the San Onofre reactor sits near San Diego on an "inactive" fault line. 

Yeah. Inactive like that certain mountain we in Washington remember assnowing ash on us in 1980:

Mt. St. Helens, Washington

*cough* Well, that certainly was a surprise! Let's hope there's no more where that came from, eh?

And here's hoping we learn a lesson from Japan's recent tragic events, and choose solar or wind power instead. We can only hope...


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