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Is the INL Nuclear Reactor At Risk If Earthquake Occurs?

More explosions rocked one of the largest nuclear power plants in Japan following Friday’s massive earthquake and tsunami. Residents were evacuated up to 12 miles away as rescue crews continue to search for survivors.

Many people in eastern Idaho are wondering if these images could ever happen here at home.

Idaho National Laboratory’s emergency director Riley Chase said on Saturday that the nuclear test reactor outside of Idaho Falls is very different from the commercial reactors in Japan.

“A materials test facility runs at a much lower temperature and pressure for usually less than six weeks so, the margin of energy and safety build into the advanced test reactor is at a much lower level,? said Chase.

Chase said that the INL is well aware of the active earthquake faults surrounding its nuclear facility, and safety measures are already in place.

“If we were to have a seismic event, the safety systems would shut that reactor down before you could even feel it personally yourself,? said Chase.

Chase said that an emergency cooling system would automatically take over the reactor. According to Chase, the power source for cooling off the reactor should not suffer the same problems we are seeing in Japan.

“If we were to lose commercial power from a seismic event in the United States, we have diesel generators that run, and we have battery backed-up systems that will provide and constantly keep cooling until passive systems can take over,? said Chase.

Chase also said that all employees are trained to act at a moment’s notice.

“We build procedures and processes so that we are ready the second it happens,? said Chase.

However, the INL admits that it does not know everything, and they expect to learn from the mistakes made in Japan to better the safety procedures here in the U.S.

“We are interested in learning from any event that takes place, and take that back to what we have, and evaluate the applicability and how we would look at our systems and processes to minimize any chances of such an event in the future,? said Chase.

According to INL, they have more than one million gallons of water on-site for cooling its nuclear reactor if an emergency occurs.

The INL has also extended an offer to Japan to provide service or expertise to help them during this time of need. They said that they are ready to send people if called upon.

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