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How close do you live to a nuclear power plant? And other maps.
March 14, 2014 9:33 PM   Subscribe

See how close you live to a nuclear power plant on this interactive map featured in Smithsonian. It's created by ESRI, home to all kinds of other maps, like the Battle of the Big Boxes, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, the location of uninsured Americans, a Timeline of the UK's Tallest Buildings, and more.

ESRI and ArcGIS previously.
posted by MoonOrb (38 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm about 200 miles away from any nuclear plant, but that's probably because the Ohio River Valley is full of coal :^(
posted by Small Dollar at 10:01 PM on March 14


I'm 33mi, but I already knew that. Not bothered by it either.
posted by sbutler at 10:02 PM on March 14


Google street view of the one near where I grew up. Not exactly subtle.
posted by mykescipark at 10:11 PM on March 14 [2 favorites]


Not as thematic, but prettier: Stamen maps (their blog)
posted by desjardins at 10:12 PM on March 14


After seeing the Ferris Bueller map, I may have to re-create his travels. Mostly because I'm not sure it's actually possible. Also, Cameron lived in Wisconsin!?!!??@!
posted by dry white toast at 10:26 PM on March 14


Good news for me, I was thinking I was 6 miles (as the crow flies) from the Diablo Canyon nuke plant, but the map told me 8 miles. I still double check the hills to my west at dusk for a green glow.
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:32 PM on March 14 [1 favorite]


Also, Cameron lived in Wisconsin!?!!??@!

That's the Cook County-Lake County border, not the Illinois-Wisconsin border.
posted by Small Dollar at 10:38 PM on March 14


Tangentially, I drove across the U.S. with my Dad a few years back and about twice a day he would say out of the blue "Oh yeah, there's a nuclear plant coming up here." He was never wrong.

I know he was in the industry, but he left in the late 1980s. It was spooky.

As of course was realizing just how many nuclear plants there are across the U.S. It's probably a compliment to their safety record that most people have no idea how many there are.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:04 PM on March 14 [1 favorite]


ESRI has a general push for this, ArcGIS Online and their upcoming Open Data portal. I've honestly not been wowed yet.
posted by graxe at 11:11 PM on March 14 [1 favorite]


I ran across this article a few days ago and admit I was the tiniest bit surprised to see that there is a consensus that nuclear power is safe. All the fear-mongering (which IMO the smithsonianmag link in the FPP is building on) had gotten me scratching my head and thinking the jury was still out. But as tell me no lies mentions, the fact that most people have no idea of the number of nuclear power plants does speak well for them.
posted by ianhattwick at 11:13 PM on March 14


Only 3 within 1000 miles of me. I had no idea that so many of the nuclear power plants in the US are concentrated in the east.
posted by mollymayhem at 11:37 PM on March 14


There are so many people concentrated in the east.
posted by sbutler at 11:41 PM on March 14


500+ miles to the nearest plant. I can probably get to a retired uranium mine in 15 minutes though...
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:56 PM on March 14 [1 favorite]


a compliment to their safety record

They have to have a spotless safety record, otherwise the damage will be catastrophic. Three Mile Island was a self-contained burp that made the entire plant unusable. Chernobyl and Fukushima were actual accidents. And it's the hyper-sensitivity of the small number of people watching these plants closely that keeps the utility companies (kinda) honest and the plants (mostly) safe. And when that safety becomes questionable, well, they shut down San Onofre (the one near Nixon's retirement home) completely. And 8 miles from me, Diablo Canyon is facing a doubtful re-authorization in a couple years because they keep finding more earthquake faults in the vicinity (and you recall what got Fukushima). If nuclear power were so safe, why have no new plants been built since 1990? (Answer: it has become prohibitively expensive to make them truly safe so they're no longer a good investment, and many of the ones grandfathered in will probably have to be shut down rather than reauthorized.)

Still, there is a small but greater-than-zero chance that at least one of the plants serving a heavily populated area of the U.S. will turn it into an un-populated area before the end of the Era of Nuclear Power. It's still mostly unlikely, but so was a gas pipeline explosion in suburban San Bruno (a pipeline owned by the same regional utility company that owns Diablo Canyon). And if you keep rolling the dice long enough, someday the worst will happen. I hope we do quit while we're still ahead.
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:58 PM on March 14 [3 favorites]


What we need is new, safer fission designs like LFTR.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 12:53 AM on March 15


What we need is new, safer fission designs like LFTR.

In 25-30 years we'll probably just buy them from the Chinese, like we do everything else.
posted by happyroach at 1:23 AM on March 15


gawd, can we please not turn this thread into an internet popularity contest on the safety of nuclear power?!!?
posted by wilful at 1:30 AM on March 15


woot…4 with in 65 miles of me, Im a glower
posted by ShawnString at 2:03 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]


There are currently 65 commercially operating nuclear power plants with 104 nuclear reactors in 31 states around the country. Thirty-six of the plants have two or more reactors. These plants have generated about 20% of U.S. electricity each year since 1990. The Palo Verde plant in Arizona has 3 reactors and the largest combined generating capacity of 3,942 Megawatts (MW) in 2010. Fort Calhoun in Nebraska has the smallest capacity with a single reactor at 478 Megawatts (MW) in 2010.

posted by three blind mice at 2:26 AM on March 15


About 50 miles from the closest nuclear plant. Perhaps more worryingly, 140 miles from 4 RBMK reactors. Radiologically speaking, both insignificant to the coal co-generation plant 3 kilometers away. All insignificant compared to living on the side of a glacial moraine that leaks shit-tons of Radon.
posted by Authorized User at 3:43 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]


Due to building restrictions, until recently the UK has not witnessed construction of the skyscrapers common to other countries.

I don't understand this sentence. There never was "building restrictions" which stopped the building of skyscrapers in England. There are restrictions about building high near to St Paul's cathedral, but that's only one bit of London. The reason why there were no or few very tall buildings in England for a long time has more to do with need, availability of capital, and the popular view of tower blocks as fit only for the poor.
posted by Thing at 4:47 AM on March 15


I live close enough to experience warning siren tests.
posted by schoolgirl report at 4:59 AM on March 15


I think the safety of nuclear power is specifically relevant to the linked articles, however unsavory a topic to any specific person. Otherwise why have a map to find one's proximity to a nuclear power plant?
posted by xarnop at 6:02 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]


I'm about equidistant between Watts Bar and Oak Ridge National Lab, which is not identified on this infographic as having a reactor but, really, c'mon.
posted by workerant at 6:16 AM on March 15


I'm about 200 miles away from any nuclear plant, but that's probably because the Ohio River Valley is full of coal :^(

This. If you look at the nuke map, you'll see a very conspicuous void along the Ohio River. Mentally fill it in with coal-fired plants.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:31 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]


The one I live near, is Plant Vogtle, discussed previously. It is disconcerting to travel down the heavily wooded wilderness that is the lower Savannah River and suddenly see this. Not on the map because it doesn't currently have reactors operating is the Savannah River Site, formerly the production facility for tritium used in thermonuclear bombs (among other activities). I actually find the latter more concerning to live near.
posted by TedW at 7:27 AM on March 15


Still, there is a small but greater-than-zero chance that at least one of the plants serving a heavily populated area of the U.S. will turn it into an un-populated area before the end of the Era of Nuclear Power.

161 miles from a Fukushima-design reactor placed near the Cascadia fault, which has a 37% risk of a magnitude 8 earthquake in the next 50 years (and a 10-14% risk of a mag. 9 quake). It's like we are asking for it, as a species.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:33 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]


Otherwise why have a map to find one's proximity to a nuclear power plant?

Because it's link bait?
posted by Ickster at 8:23 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]


It's the Smithsonian Magazine, not Buzzfeed or Jezebel.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:51 AM on March 15 [2 favorites]


Oh, yeah. There wasn't a click-through add page when I visited.

Oh, wait. Yes, there was. I guess they want to drive traffic to their site just like Buzzfeed or Jezebel.
posted by Ickster at 9:24 AM on March 15


That nuclear map is super incomplete if they don't include all the nearby Canadian plants, of which there are many.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:30 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]


Sorry for my jerky tone; I'm in a crappy mood and shouldn't leave it laying around here.

I know Smithsonian.com is generally good, but honestly, a map of your proximity to a nuclear power plant really doesn't inform in any meaningful way but it will drive traffic. Even if that wasn't a conscious "link bait" strategy as it is with Buzzfeed or Jezebel, it's not dissimilar. As a matter of fact, you could argue that it's even more uncomfortably close to "If it bleeds, it leads."
posted by Ickster at 9:30 AM on March 15 [2 favorites]


184 Miles.

Would have been a lot closer, but they had to retire San Onofre early because of safety concerns.
posted by notyou at 9:48 AM on March 15


Oh ESRI. Some day you'll figure out the Internet. The embedded ESRI map loads, literally, 80+ separate Javascript files for a total of 750k of scripts. That is not an exaggeration. You could make the exact same map using Google Maps, Leaflet, or even OpenLayers that will load in about one fifth the time.

Sorry to snark on the form and not the content, but since the post specifically gives kudos to ESRI I have to call them out. ESRI's grasp of the Internet and the Web is about what Microsoft's was in 1998. It was really only last year ESRI tools were capable of posting sort of vaguely good looking web maps. And they still apparently haven't figured out how to combine and minimize javascript files.

Did they even bother projecting the yellow nuclear death circles correctly? They look like geometric pixel circles, not geographic projected circles. And weirdly they're rendering them as one overlay image for the whole map instead of just using some sort of marker composited in the Javascript.
posted by Nelson at 3:30 PM on March 15 [4 favorites]


ianhattwick: "the fact that most people have no idea of the number of nuclear power plants does speak well for them."

I had a roommate in law school from (nuclear-free) New Zealand and she was shocked when she heard I grew up with electricity mostly generated by nuclear power and hardly ever thought about it. I mean, Commonwealth Edison wasn't competent to tie their own shoes, let alone keep the electricity on reliably, but I just never really thought about the fact that they ran a whole nuclear plant 30-some miles from me growing up. She was really surprised that it was barely in the public consciousness and not really a political issue at all (once it was running. I imagine it was when they set it up first).

I dunno, it mostly seems better than sucking down coal fumes, and all the associated coal mining damage (to miners, to the environment) that goes with that. I'm not all that worried about a meltdown -- catastrophic, but extremely rare -- and the risk of a rare catastrophe seems better than breathing obviously damaging toxins from coal plants on a daily basis. Feels a little bit like someone gives you the choice, "Fly in an airplane, or smoke cigarettes every day?" An airplane crash is going to kill me dead on the first try, but it's pretty rare. Cigarettes are killing you a little bit every day and will usually kill you in the end.

I've been playing with GIS lately to make some maps of the amount of land locally removed from property tax rolls by non-profits and TIF districts, it's a really powerful tool!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:33 PM on March 15 [1 favorite]


I've been wondering how much of the earth would be left uninhabitable if all of the plants had a fukishima level accident, which is, over time, inevitable.
posted by empath at 4:09 AM on March 16


Don't think of them as safe, think of them as failing to be unsafe.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:06 AM on March 16


If Cameron lived on the other side of the Cook County-Lake County border, he wouldn't be attending the same high school as Ferris unless his official address was closer to the school - probably an indication that Cameron's parents do not live together and are probably divorced.

It's amazing what metadata can do.
posted by Monkey0nCrack at 6:26 PM on March 20


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