Fukushima anniversary: B.C. looks south to closest nuclear plant

Sitting a six-hour drive south of Vancouver, the Columbia Generating Station is B.C.'s closet nuclear plant. As we near the one year anniversary of the Fukushima disaster, VO investigates.

The Columbia Generating Station, six hours from Vancouver, is designed to withstand a 6.9-magnitude earthquake.

An almost featureless long, flat stretch of highway leads to the Columbia Generating Station, near Hanford, Washington – the closest nuclear plant to B.C. and one that raises questions of how safe Canadians are in the event of a disaster to our south.

Only 550 kilometres from Vancouver, the facility – a slightly newer model than Fukushima's General Electric Mark 1 plants – rises like a cube from the fields, unlike the famed cones of the Simpsons or the ill-fated Three Mile Island plant.

When an earthquake and tsunami struck the multiple nuclear reactors in Fukushima, Japan last March 11, leading to a long chain of failures, meltdowns and toxic waste leaks, it caused Columbia's plant regulatory affairs manager to reflect – and, he told the Vancouver Observer, to act.

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The event happening at Fukushima being too hastily dismissed. A lesson has yet to be learned by many, and especially by many, and especially many in our nuclear power industry. (I myself  as a professional engineer work in that industry.)
Basically the lesson is; the improbable does happen.  Mrs. Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany who is also a Doctor in Quantum Chemistry, with her bold decision to shut down nuclear power in her country may have said it best, "Fukushima has forever changed the way we define risk in Germany."  No longer can a mathematical calculation of a risk ten to the minus seven or something be grounds for discounting an event.   More or greater safety features may make an event more improbable, but cannot prevent the event from happening so long as it is possible.  Eventually one must face the possible consequences. Most all nuclear power plants as we know them today have an Achilles heel. In the event of a shutdown nuclear power plants require some form of external power to maintain core stability. Should such power be disrupted for whatever improbable reason, the ensuing consequences are catastrophic. Simply adding more safety devices to existing reactors does not solve the problem.


I have be told that the Japanese plan to fire-up the Fukushima plant in the not to distant future. Troubling to say the least.

Hanford and Fukishima

The risks to Hanford nuclear site and Fukishima is like night and day.  Hanford has its own challenges and problems and leakage from storage is probably the greatest risk while earthquakes are almost the least.

We have been taught over and over again by the media that the great offshore plate seismic event (Richter 9.0) will have devastating impacts to our region here, however a notable seismic academic (applied scientist) states that the faults in Georgia Strait will have far more devastating impacts to the Metro Vancouver area than the "big one" off the west coast of Vancouver Island.

This story does nothing but fear monger and aids in keeping the uninformed needlessly worrying when far more despicable human events, like the gutting of Canada's environmental laws, the proposed pipelines through BC and the shale gas fracking in northern BC are real threats to our safety and security.