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Which US Nuclear Plants Most at Risk of Quake?

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on March 17, 2011 6:46 AM

The world is watching as Japan tries to keep its nuclear plant from entering meltdown mode. Already leaking radiation, the nuclear plant would cause severe damage if the situation were to get any worse.

For U.S. energy activists and officials, the situation with the Japanese nuclear reactor raises a lot of questions. With local plants built in a similar fashion, there's a lot of speculation about whether the United States is destined for the same fate.

If you're wondering the same thing, consider the following: the government actually knows which of the country's 104 reactors are the least safe.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is tasked with licensing and regulating every nuclear plant in the nation. Each assessment includes an earthquake risk analysis, explains CNN, and the results are surprising.

There is a 1 in 74,176 chance that a nuclear reactor will go into failure due to an earthquake, reports MSNBC. That, however, is just the average. Indian Point Energy Center, located just outside New York City, leads the pack with a 1 in 10,000 chance.

What's even more surprising than the fact that the most dangerous nuclear reactor is on the Hudson River? California plants appear to be safer than most of those on the East Coast.

So, who would be liable should the NRC's safety tests fail, ending with a nuclear reactor causing catastrophic damage? It depends.

The Price-Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act has created a sort of no-fault system for nuclear energy. Victims of nuclear meltdowns and other incidents are usually compensated from a general fund, indemnifying operators from further liability. The law, however, doesn't cover every instance, and may not pay as much as a case in civil court.

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