I’m shaking my head as I write this…it seems that our favorite local nuclear power plant is sitting on top of a ancient land fault.
You are wondering what that means right?
Well, we can think of a fault as a soft area in the rocks beneath an area. Faults are places where the subsurface rocks may shift and create what is referred to as shear. In simple terms faults are where we believe earthquakes are born.
Our power plant is located near 3 faults. One runs from New York down through Virginia and that fault is the Ramapo fault. There is also a Chalfont fault and then there is the SANATOGA fault.
To be fair, only the center of the US is relatively free from sketchy underground earthquakes- and honestly we can’t even be sure of that because while we think that earthquakes are directly related to faults in the ground, we can’t be sure of that.
Okay now let’s talk about what a capable fault means. Quite simply that is a fault that has shifted or moved enough to cause a seismic shift in the last 50 thousand years or so. Our faults like the Sanatoga fault, exist, but they are pretty ancient. Their age is both a good thing and a bad thing. It is a good thing in that the likelihood that they’ll move again real soon is small…but the bad thing is that the cold rocks in an earthquake will jar the earth in a much larger sense than an earthquake on the Pacific coast of the US would. California’s rocks are hotter and therefore more fluid. ( The use of the term fluid is my own!)
The craziest thing about looking up some information on this stuff and reading the NRC’s pages on where nuclear power plants can be situated is that the bean counters figure on the people surrounding the plant getting less than 25 rems in an emergency!
So rest easy! Even if the rock quarry busts a new seam in the Sanatoga fault that turns into a man made earthquake and shears the ground underneath the plant enough to release some nuclear material….we now know that there is a limit to how much nuclear material we will be exposed to in a couple of hours after the emergency!
Isn’t that great?