As US policy makers renew emphasis on the use of nuclear energy in their efforts to reduce the country’s oil dependence, other factors come into play. One concern of paramount importance is the seismic hazard at the site where nuclear reactors are located.

Meanwhile, the Ukraine is promoting tourism to Chernobyl, site of the world’s worst nuclear power plant disaster. Civil engineer Russell A. Green spent five years as an earthquake engineer for the US Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, and part of his responsibility was to perform seismic safety analyses on the nation’s defense nuclear facilities. He says, "Many of the facilities being analyzed were already built and operating, and the facilities were already heavily contaminated with radioactive material." Unlike many places in the western US where excavations can be used to determine the past movement on earthquake faults, in the central-eastern US, the locations of most faults are unknown or too deep to excavate.

Ever spend a holiday in hell? If not–and you want to try it–you’ll be glad to know that the Ukraine will lift restrictions on tourism in the zone about the Chernoblyl nuclear power plant in 2011! You may remember that Chernobyl was the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident in 1986. The meltdown killed 32 plant workers and firefighters right away, and the International Atomic Energy Agency estimates that 4,000 more will die of related cancers from the radioactive material released by the disaster in crops and in the atmosphere.

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