August 22, 2008 / 7:11 PM / 10 years ago

NY nuclear plant likely a quake risk: study

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A nuclear power plant that lies within commuting distance of New York City is more likely to be shaken by an earthquake than previously thought because it sits atop a newly identified intersection of two active seismic zones, scientists said.

The Statue of Liberty and the New York City Skyline are seen in this photograph taken from a tour boat in New York Harbor, June 30, 2008. REUTERS/Mike Segar

The Indian Point nuclear reactor is within a mile or two

of both a seismic zone running from Stamford, Connecticut, to Peekskill, New York, and the Ramapo seismic line, said the study by seismologists at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Large earthquakes are infrequent around New York compared to more active areas like California, but the risk is higher because of the millions of people that live around the largest U.S. city and the infrastructure surrounding it, said Lynn Sykes, the lead author of the study.

Indian Point, which is owned by Entergy Corp, lies about 40 miles north of New York City in the town of Buchanan, which sits on the banks of the Hudson River.

“The problem here comes from many subtle faults. We now see there is earthquake activity on them. Each one is small, but when you add them up, they are probably more dangerous than we thought,” said Leonardo Seeber, a co-author of the study, which appeared in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America.

Jim Steets, a spokesman for the plant, said the study added nothing new to what was known before the plant was built and that Indian Point was made to withstand a magnitude 7 quake on the Mercalli scale, equal to about 6.1 on the Richter scale.

The study said Richter magnitude 5 quakes, which are strong enough to cause damage, occurred around New York in 1737, 1783 and 1884 and that stronger quakes in the area are possible.

Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Christian Wiessner

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