As if it wasn't bad enough that a giant tsunami is probably going to wash over much of the city at some point (hopefully after everyone gets their own personal jetpacks which we haven't forgotten about, by the way, scientists), now we also have a nuclear disaster to worry about. According to calculations by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, out of all the nuclear reactors in the country, the one with the highest risk of core damage from an earthquake is reactor number 3 at Indian Point, the facility in Westchester that provides about a third of New York City's power. The risk is still small a 1 in 10,000 chance each year but it's apparently large enough to be "right on the verge of requiring 'immediate concern regarding adequate protection' of the public."
Why isn't the most precarious reactor in California, or somewhere else with stronger and more frequent earthquakes? Because they were built to withstand such earthquakes, while Indian Point and other reactors in the East were not:
Nuclear power plants built in the areas usually thought of as earthquake zones, such as the California coastline, have a surprisingly low risk of damage from those earthquakes. Why? They built anticipating a major quake.
Other plants in the East, South and Midwest, where the design standards may have been lower because the earthquake risk was thought to be minimal, now find themselves at the top of the NRC's danger list ....
In the 35 years since Indian Point 3 got its license to operate in 1976, the same era when most of today's U.S. nuclear reactors were built, geologists have learned a lot about the dangers of earthquakes in the eastern and central U.S.
Indian Point's operating license expires in 2013, and Governor Cuomo has said he doesn't think it should be renewed. With the plant's potential dangers now in focus because of the nuclear disaster in Japan, that's probably a battle he'll be happy to wage.
Update: Governor Cuomo said today that he was surprised by the report and he'll be "checking into" it immediately.