Earthquake Near Virginia Nuclear Reactors Is a Reminder of the Risks in California

Media Contacts
Emily Rusch

Vice President and Senior Director of State Offices, The Public Interest Network


Statement by CALPIRG State Director Emily Rusch:

Today’s earthquake in Virginia, less than ten miles from two nuclear reactors, is a jolting reminder of exactly the type of unpredictable risk that threaten the safety and security of nuclear power plants here in California and across the country.

Because of the immediate, serious danger if radioactivity were to be released, California should be moving away from this inherently dangerous technology and towards safer energy sources. 

We know nuclear power is inherently risky, and this year has taught us that it is possible for the security of nuclear plants to be compromised by Mother Nature.  

Unfortunately, in many instances regulators are not even doing their best to understand the risks. For example, in California, nuclear power plant owners dragged their feet for years to conduct seismic studies to better understand the risks of an earthquake along California’s coastline. 

Only after the disaster in Japan, and ensuing public pressure from local officials, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently halted the relicensing process for the Diablo Canyon in San Luis Obispo, California, and required new seismic studies to be completed [CALPIRG testimony here]. Regulators must ensure that the studies are done with the integrity and independence that the public deserves. 

In Virginia, where Dominion Power representatives have said that the reactors were designed to withstand earthquakes of 5.9-6.1, only time will tell whether today’s earthquake or any subsequent aftershocks will release dangerous radioactivity into the environment.    

Even if no safety threats are apparent, Virginia ratepayers will likely be on the hook for expensive back-up electricity needs while the reactors are offline.