Tuesday, August 23, 2011
East Coast earthquake: unsettling problem at Lake Anna nuclear power plant reported; condemned apartment buildings could lead to a homelessness crisis
I first thought the quake was the generator turning on (with no power outage, strange); then when the shaking and rumbling increased, I thought there could have been an explosion at a construction site nearby. But finally, I went outside and found neighbors saying it was an earthquake. I emailed WJLA, but the TV stations didn’t have the breaking news of the earthquake for ten minutes.
As the evening wore on, more reports of damage rolled in. I went out to a Home Depot at Seven Corners, VA and found it closed. But I saw no damage at all driving around northern VA myself. This evening, the Ballston Common was operating normally.
An older high rise apartment building (or two of them) in the Hyattsville MD, above Branch Ave. area has been condemned already. I’m not sure if this means it cannot be repaired and must be demolished. Here is a reference for how it works in Massachusetts (not Maryland), link.
There could be danger that more buildings will be condemned, or these buildings may have been unusually weak structurally or the area around it may be unusually sensitive to seismic energy. If many buildings were suddenly condemned (perhaps unnecessarily), there could be a sudden homelessness crisis. Authorities should not be in a hurry to condemn buildings that probably can be repaired. But over the years, a number of apartment complexes, especially in the Prince Georges County area of MD, have been reported by the media to have very serious problems.
On the East Coast, relative moderate earthquakes (under 6) can propagate for hundreds of miles because of the lack of transversing faults.
The media also reports that the first backup power system for cooling rods at the Lake Anna Nuclear Station (which I visited in April, very near the earthquake epicenter) failed, and that Dominion Power had to go to a second backup. Michio Kaku said today that this is not good, that ultimately it raises the specter of a meltdown in the area (see April 6 posting on this blog).
The Lake Anna station has a visitor's center, but it is not easy to see the actual reactors, that are "hidden away" like in Josh Groban's song.
Last month, I also drove past the Indian Point nuclear station 50 miles north of NYC on the Hudson; it is said to be built to take only up to a 6.0 quake. And New York City is more exposed to large quakes than Virginia.