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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Can Human Activity Cause Earthquakes?

The north side of the damaged reactor building of Unit 1 at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma town, Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan.  (AP)

The north side of the damaged reactor building of Unit one at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma town, Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan. (AP)

For the first time since Japan’s devastating earthquake and tsunami in March, workers have entered one of the damaged reactor buildings at Japan’s Fukushima Nuclear plant. Tokyo Electric Power Company, which operates the plant, said workers are attempting to ventilate reactor one in an operation expected to take four or five days.

Meanwhile, efforts are still underway to replace electricity lost when Fukushima and other energy suppliers were disabled by the earthquake and tsunami. But experts warn that developing some renewable energy sources, or natural gas, could lead to earthquakes or tsunamis.

Seismic shocks associated with the development of energy projects are usually small, but, experts say they could become dangerous if they put additional strain on large geological faults. We talk with Peter Fairley, energy editor with IEEE Spectrum magazine, he also writes the blog “Carbon Nation.”


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  • Alfred

    This fact about hydroelectric dams exert tremendous pressure on the earth at those points thus causing shifts in the tectonic plates, etc. . I’m sure some of the geologists and other experts who decide where to place a dam may have done their homework before the construction begins.

    How about doing a story on HAARP(High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program) which is run out of Gakona, Alaska?

    Its purpose is to analyze the ionosphere and investigate the potential for developing ionospheric enhancement technology for radio communications and surveillance purposes.

    However critics say that it is responsible for causing earthquakes and also its use in weather modification with another program involving those pesky chemtrails.
    These programs are part of what the Feds call “geo-engineering”. That program is under: Stratospheric sulfate aerosols (geoengineering).
    Please give us some real news.

  • Parke

    I was fascinated to bear audience to Mr. Fairley’s discussion about humanity’s influence on earthquakes. Until now, I did not know that our activities such as the creation of giant reservoirs of water and the extraction of geothermal power could trigger latent quakes.

    The discussion raised a curious question in my mind. Although in the short term an earthquake sparked by any of these activities is undoubtedly an unpleasant, even potentially an awful affair, might it not have benefits in the long run? If earthquakes are the result of a sudden release of slowly building energy due to the slipping of two plates previously restrained by friction, wouldn’t it be better for them to slip sooner rather than later? Wouldn’t the energy released be less than if the static frictional forces were allowed to build to their natural maximums? E.g. by causing a magnitude 5 quake now, might we be avoiding a magnitude 8 quake down the road?

  • Ric

    I wonder if the tremendous redistribution of weight in the form of water trasnfer from land to sea caused by global warming is causing an increase in seimic activity. Sea levels have risen over 3 feet since man started industialization. The weight of a cubic yard of water is 1682 lbs. The surface area of the oceans is 139.5 million square miles. 1 square mile = 3 097 600 square yards. So 1682 x 139.5 million x 3097600 = an astronimically huge weight transfer.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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