Last night at a GOProud gathering, our reader Leah faulted the media for dwelling on the problems at the Fukushima nuclear plant and ignoring the plight of the Japanese suffering in the wake of the terrible tsunami. “They’re making it sound,” she said, “like a nuclear bomb is about go off.”
And then, as our reader Sonicfrog notes in a post on his blog, when reporting on the risks earthquakes pose to nuclear power plants, reporters ofenttimes don’t have a clue what they’re talking about. A plant manager at Southern California’s San Onofre nuclear power plan was trying to explain to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer . . .
. . . that the San Andreas fault is many miles away [from his plant], and also that they don’t build the reactors to Richter scale standards, but to Peak Ground Acceleration, measured in g’s. If the San Andreas does produce a quake of the same size, because of its distance from the plant, the motion transmitted to the reactors would be less severe than that of the closer fault.
Only the CNN correspondent thought the plant manager was trying to spin him! Sonic, as “ex geology major, specializing in seismology” unpacks things for us:
They don’t build reactors according to a Richter scale metric… Of course they don’t. The Richter scale relates the size and strength of the quake at the epicenter!!!!! That is the point or focus on the ground directly above the hypocenter of the seismic event… where the pressure released within the earths crust, some miles below the surface. The farther away you are from the origin of the event, the epicenter, the less energy will reach you. Throw a rock out into a lake. Where the rock hits the water surface, the wave will be large. If you managed to throw the rock far from shore, by the time the waves you created reach the shore where you’re standing, they will be hardly noticeable. If you are closer, you will get a bigger wave, but it still won’t be as big as it was at the spot where your rock disturbed the water and created the wave in the first place. If you’re half a mile away from an F-5 tornado, you won’t feel as much wind as you would if you were standing right next to the thing! You get the picture. That is why the Richter scale is not relevant when you are talking about shaking… Because it doesn’t consider any energy as it propagates away from the epicenter.
Read the whole thing. Now, I can’t claim to be an expert on things seismological or nuclear, but Sonic knows a lot more than me. And than Wolf. And than a number of people in the MSM. All this gets me wondering: are they hyping the potential for a nuclear disaster of epic proportions while downplaying those providing relief to individuals who experienced just such a disaster?