How close is your home to a nuclear plant? What is the weighted risk of an earthquake nuclear accident in the United States?

Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant
Indian Point Nuclear Plant, Buchanan, New York Image by Tony the Misfit via Flickr

As the situation at the Fukushima nuclear plant becomes darker by the day (see Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant Update) and the risk of a major meltdown increases, people all over the world ask themselves how great is the danger of a major accident in their country. The United States has 104 reactors distributed among 68 locations (see map of US nuclear power plant locations below).

If you live in the United States, you probably ask yourself: how great is the risk of a nuclear accident at my location? Starting from an article published by MSNBC I calculated this risk and weighted its potential impact taking into account three factors:

  1. the age of the reactor,
  2. the risk of an earthquake, and
  3. powerplant utilized capacity.

The result indicates how likely AND serious an accident at that plant might be. According to my calculations, which converge with those published by MSNBC to a certain extent, the weighted risk of a significant incident ranks the US nuclear plants is concentrated on the East Coast and in the South. The greatest disaster, if it will ever be one, should be expected in the New York / New Jersey area and / or in Pennsylvania.

Risk of nuclear disaster combining age of plant, power, and earthquake risk.

The table below lists the plants by level of severity of impact.

It is important to note, however, that while in the MSNBC calculations for the Plymouth and Buchanan plants are similar, the rest of the list is quite different. In Tennessee, it is, in fact, the Soddy Daisy plant that is the most liable and could have the greatest impact, while in Pennsylvania would be Shippingpot and Limmerick. A full list with all the plants and their factor risks, plus other information (date of commission, license details, etc) can be found in the Google fusion table listed below.


Map of nuclear reactors in the United States and potential risk.

Click on the markers and use the link in the bubble to see details about each location/nuclear plant.


Impact potential of US nuclear power plants

Information displayed by weighted risk.

About the data:

Weighed Risk of Earthquake induced nuclear accident in the United States. Calculated by Sorin Adam Matei . Data obtained from and  NRC Information Digest (NUREG-1350, Volume 22), Appendix A: U.S. Commercial Nuclear Power Reactors

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Sorin Adam Matei

Sorin Adam Matei - Professor of Communication at Purdue University - studies the relationship between information technology and social groups. He published papers and articles in Journal of Communication, Communication Research, Information Society, and Foreign Policy. He is the author or co-editor of several books. The most recent is Structural differentation in social media. He also co-edited Ethical Reasoning in Big Data,Transparency in social media and Roles, Trust, and Reputation in Social Media Knowledge Markets: Theory and Methods (Computational Social Sciences) , all three the product of the NSF funded KredibleNet project. Dr. Matei's teaching portfolio includes online interaction, and online community analytics and development classes. His teaching makes use of a number of software platforms he has codeveloped, such as Visible Effort . Dr. Matei is also known for his media work. He is a former BBC World Service journalist whose contributions have been published in Esquire and several leading Romanian newspapers. In Romania, he is known for his books Boierii Mintii (The Mind Boyars), Idolii forului (Idols of the forum), and Idei de schimb (Spare ideas).

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