Earthquakes & Nuclear Power in Spain

By Per Svensson

miércoles 22 de octubre de 2014, 11:21h

After Chernobyl the atomic industry in the west explained that the tragedy was a result of sloppiness in the Soviet Union and assured us that such an accident was impossible, with the efficient, highly developed technological level, in the West;  that our nuclear stations are safe, let us build more of them!


The tragedy in Fukushima has clearly demonstrated that even in the highly developed capitalist world the nuclear industry is a grave danger to humanity and that science has not harnessed the atom.  In all countries people are now demanding a thorough investigation of safety risks in their nuclear plants.  Politicians are hurriedly shutting down unsafe reactors and more and more citizens are supporting a rapid end to the atomic industry and its replacement by regenerative energies.


The risk of earthquakes

Spain is located in a region with substantial seismic movement, with 2,500 earth quakes every year, most of which are too small to feel but they are registered by the seismological stations.  Only when an earthquake has an intensity of more than 4 on the Richter Scale can we expect damages inside the houses with cups and glasses rattling, and outside roof tiles or parts of house walls falling into the streets.

The strongest known Iberian peninsula earthquake, with its epicentre in Lisbon, was recorded in 1755, but the quake, 8.7 on the Richter Scale, caused serious damage in Portugal and Spain. 85% of the buildings in Seville were affected, two children were killed in Madrid by part of a façade falling and thousands of people along the province of Cadiz coast were killed by a 10 meter "tsunami-wave."

There was another substantial earthquake in Arenas del Rey in the Granada province, in 1884, which killed more than 800 people.

In subsequent years: On 2nd February 1999, there was a quake of 4.8 in Mula (Murcia) causing serious damage in the village.  In August 2003, a quake of 4.5 magnitude was registered in the Mediterranean off Valencia, and in the same area, there was another quake on 21st September 2003.

At the end of January 2005, a 4.6 quake, with the epicenter in Bulla (Murcia) was felt also in the provinces of Alicante, Jaen, Granada, Albacete, Almeria, Valencia and Ciudad Real. 200 dwellings were damaged, but few injuries were recorded.  The same area had a 4.5 quake in August 2002.

A quake registered in Pedro Muńos (Castilla-La Mancha) in August 2007 had a magnitude of 5.1 on the Richter Scale.

The African tectonic plate is colliding with the European-Asian plate along a fault stretching from the Azores into the Mediterranean in the Straights of Gibraltar. The African plate is pushing Spain 4 millimetres to the north east every year.

The European Union finances scientific investigations into the seismic situation in this region, and the possibilities of further important earthquakes.

Spain has strict legislation on construction, intended to make the buildings quake  resistant.

There are 60 seismic measuring stations in Spain and the neighbouring areas of Portugal and France, which in two minutes of real time deliver the information to a central station in Madrid.  If quakes of more than 3.5 are registered the information goes immediately to the Civil Protection Central Control, the Emergency Services and their collaborators, wherever they are, as well as to water powered and nuclear plants.  Details of significantly important quakes are also reported to centres in other countries.


20 tsunamis have hit Spain

Scientists have registered more than 20 tsunamis along Spanish coasts. The most devastating was that following the Lisbon earthquake in 1755, which created a wave in the bay of Cadiz which killed thousands of people in that province.

26th May 2003 the water level rose rapidly along the Alicante coast, withdrawing just as fast, damaging many boats in the yacht harbours of the province. This was a tsunami caused by an earthquake off the coast of Algiers.

Seismologists at the university of Alicante do not fear a killer tsunami like the one in the Indian ocean, since the Mediterranean is not very deep.

Earthquakes are not the only natural catastrophes that may cause a tsunami, a volcanic eruption may do so, or a substantial landslide into an ocean. British scientists warn that a possible danger point may be the island La Palma in the Canaries Archipelago.

The Canary Islands are of volcanic origin; the volcano Cumbre Vieja on La Palma is one of the most active volcanoes in the world. In 1949 an eruption created a crack that may have split the mountain in two.  Vulcanologists at the Benfield Hazard Research Centre in London fear that the western part of the mountain may slide into the Atlantic ocean as a result of a new eruption, but add that it could happen maybe in 20, 200 or in 5,000 years. Other scientists disagree with the findings of the research centre in London.

Scientists at the research centre estimate the landmass in question is approximately  500 km3 (5 x 1011 m3).  Such a landslide could cause a tsunami with devastating effects in Western Africa, along the European western coasts, and especially the east coast of the United states and the Caribbean islands. The tsunami could reach a height of 10 to 25 meter along the heavily populated American coast.


The Spanish nuclear lobby

After significant pressure from the important nuclear lobby, the Ministry of Industry has conceded a prolongation of the nuclear power station, Cofrentes (Province of Valencia) for a further 10 years. The station has been in operation for 27 years, has suffered several accidents, is similar to those in Fukushima and is situated directly at the waters edge.  The extension of use was granted on the 10th March, the day of the earthquake in Japan.

The Minister of Industry and Tourism, Miguel Sebastian, has hurriedly announced a renewed inspection of all security installations at all nuclear plants in Spain, and especially in Cofrentes.



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