Treehugger: Google Earth Maps Out At-Risk Populations Around Nuclear Power Plants

Physorg.com and Treehugger.com

If a nuclear power plant in the US were to have issues, who would be affected? In a partnership between Nature News and Columbia University, we now have a Google map that tells us the population sizes around plants so we can easily scan and see the number of people that could be affected should anything occur at the plants.

Private Sector Information System (PRIS) database run by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Columbia University’s NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center to map out in an easy-to-read way, the location and size of nuclear power plants as well as population numbers around those plants.

On the map, population sizes are illustrated with circle size as well as color. Green circles represent less than 500,000 people and on the other side of the scale, red circles represent populations of over 20 million.

As Physics.org reports.

And because circle size and color are used to represent population density (number of people living within 75 km [about 47 miles] of a ), it’s also easy to see with just a glance how many people live in areas that would be at risk should a nuclear accident occur in that area.
What stands out is how big the numbers are for some areas; for example, the Guandong plant in China (near Hong Kong) has over twenty eight million people living within 75 kilometers of the 1888 MW plant, which has two reactors. Clicking on one of the circles brings up more details, for example, at the Guandong plant, an astonishing three and a quarter million people live within a 30 km radius; all of whom would likely suffer some rather serious repercussions if the plant were to have an accident on the scale of the Fukushima disaster.

Of course, what’s not shown in these maps are confidence measures to show how safe the plants actually are, which even if they did exist, would be based on assumptions and suppositions, likely created by the very same people that were operating them; not exactly a situation that would warm the heart. And while the Google Earth maps created by Nature News and Columbia University certainly are eye opening, it does make you wonder if in the end, it’s not just another case of a study generating shock value without creating anything of actual use; after all, is it likely that any of the plants will be moved simply because now everyone knows how many people live around them?

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