Sunday, October 21, 2012

Drilling near Nuclear Reactors gives new meaning to "Energy Boom"

Chesapeake Energy has a permit for hydraulic fracking just one mile from the Beaver Valley Nuclear Power Station in Shippingport, PA. That’s about 30 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.

The big question is whether blasting away at Marcellus shale might cause a different sort of energy boom at the power station.

The PA Department of Environmental Protection told the press that there are no “required setbacks” specifically related to drilling distances from nuclear facilities. On the other hand, they know of no other well located near a nuclear facility. And the Nuclear Regulatory Commission doesn’t seem to have any guidelines about this matter, either.

One concern is the potential for seismic activity related to injection wells used to store Marcellus drilling wastes. Not a concern now, say the drillers – because this is a gas well, not an injection well. But just three years ago Chesapeake was looking to turn an old gas well in Pulteney, NY into an injection well.

Ever since the earthquake that hit Japan, and the ensuing damage to the Fukushima reactor, seismic activity has been high on the list of “things we oughta be concerned about” for the nuclear facilities managers. As for the folks near Shippingport, PA, a 2010 NRC report found that the Beaver Valley Power Station was ranked the in the top five “most vulnerable” to earthquake damage in the US. Read more here.

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