Earthquake Risk

Earthquake Map within 10/50 miles of San Onofre San Onofre was redesigned for a 7.0 earthquake, but sits near faults capable of 8.0+ earthquakes 10 times larger, 32 times stronger, and long overdueSee USGS earthquake calculator.

USGS predicts probability of at 7.5+ earthquake in Southern California as 36% in 30-years and a probability of a 7.0+ earthquake as 75%. Northern California a 7.0+ as 37% in 30-years.

There is no seismic rating for the nuclear waste thin storage canisters that may already be cracking at San Onofre and other nuclear plants, especially in the corrosive coastal environment. Each of the canisters contains more radiation (Cesium-137) than that released from Chernobyl.

Nelson Mar, PhD (former Senior Engineer for the original design of San Onofre Units 2 & 3), said San Onofre is not designed for current earthquake or tsunami risks. See 3/27/12 Irvine City Council meeting video.

Over the next 30 years the probability of a major earthquake occurring in Southern California is 60% and 67% in the San Francisco Bay area. scientists have EVER predicted a major earthquake.”

USGS M5+ earthquakes

5.5+ magnitude. Source: USGS Centennial Catalog 1900 – 2002 and USGS/NEIC (PDE) Catalog 1973 – Feb 2014

They do not know how and they do not expect to know how any time in the foreseeable future.   Major earthquakes can occur on what are predicted to be minor faults. Based on scientific data, only probabilities can be calculated for potential future earthquakes. U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)

    • “Information about how big an earthquake’s going to be may not be in the earth’s crust BEFORE the earthquake begins” says USGS seismologist Dr. Lucy Jones.

Many seismic countries, however, have research programs based on identifying possible precursors to major earthquakes. This includes the study of dilatancy, how rocks crack and expand under the increased stress associated with the earthquake. Some major earthquakes, but not all, are heralded by the occurrence of foreshocks. which can be detected by dense local monitoring networks. Other instruments can measure changes in the levels of radon gas, electrical and magnetic properties, velocity changes of seismic waves and changes in topography. Long term monitoring and examination by these sensors is required as some or all of these factors may change due to the opening of cracks PRIOR to the earthquake. All attempts to predict earthquakes have, however, been generally considered as failures and it is unlikely that accurate prediction will occur in the near future.  Efforts will, instead, be channelled into hazard mitigation. Earthquakes are difficult or impossible to predict because of their inherent random element and their near-chaotic behaviour.  British Geology Survey FAQS

    • The Earth’s natural systems are not static… This is why I personally feel we need to regularly update the scientific data we use to inform our regulatory approach so that our nuclear facilities are adequately protected against unanticipated events”, said NRC Chairman Macfarlane at the November 6, 2012 INPO CEO conference, in reference to the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Building design limitations due to ground motion unpredictibility

Professor Thomas Heaton of Caltech’s Earthquake Engineering Research Lab, reveals limitations in designing structures to protect against large earthquakes. Every earthquake has different dynamics and affects different types of construction differently.  “All tall buildings are designed to be flexible, but here’s the rub,” Heaton said. “People talk about a building designed for an 8 [magnitude], as if anybody has a good idea of what the actual ground motion would be in an 8. There’s tremendous variation from one place to another.” If you “put a really large quake under downtown L.A., 7-plus, it could be a true nightmare.” L.A. Times, Earthquakes on the brain, April 1, 2014.

Disconnected faults can jump nine feet, according to new 2015 USGS data

Southern California 8+ earthquake 30-year probability increased from 3% to 7% due to new understanding about how disconnected faults can jump up to nine feet.

Estimates of the chance of a magnitude 8.0 or greater earthquake hitting California in the next three decades have been raised from about 4.7% to 7%, the U.S. Geological Survey said Tuesday [March 9, 2015].  Scientists said the reason for the increased estimate was because of the growing understanding that earthquakes aren’t limited to separate faults, but can start on one fault and jump to others. The result could be multiple faults rupturing in a simultaneous mega-quake… LA Times, March 9, 2015

New Forecast for California’s Earthquake Fault System,  USGS, March 2015

USGS CA Earthquake Risk 2015

Fracking on the Newport-Inglewood Fault

Los Angeles Basin Injection Wells Earthquakes Figure4-4-9Several wells in the Wilmington field are located within 4 km (2.5 mi) of the Holocene Palos Verdes fault (slip rate 3 mm/yr). Only scattered seismicity has occurred near any these fields except Inglewood and Cheviot Hills at the northwestern end of the Newport-Inglewood trend. As in the Ventura Basin, clusters of seismicity are located close to some disposal wells but also elsewhere. The cluster at the top-center of the figure are aftershocks of the 2014 La Habra earthquake.

An Independent Scientific Assessment of Well Stimulation in California, An Examination of Hydraulic Fracturing and Acid Stimulations in the Oil and Gas Industry, Jane C. S. Long, PhD, California Council on Science and Technology, Steering Committee Chairman; Science Lead Jens T. Birkholzer, PhD, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Principal Investigator; Laura C. Feinstein, PhD, California Council on Science and Technology, Project Manager

Fracking can trigger earthquakes

Correlation between earthquake frequency and volume of contaminated waste injected. Rocky Mountain Arsenal Well, Colorado 1962-1965

Correlation between earthquake frequency & volume of contaminated waste injected. Rocky Mountain Arsenal Well, Colorado 1962-65

Earthquakes can be triggered by any significant perturbation of the hydrologic regime.  In areas where potentially active faults are already close to failure, the increased pore pressure resulting from fluid injection, or, alternatively, the massive extraction of fluid or gas, can induce sufficient stress and/or strain changes that, with time, can lead to sudden catastrophic failure in a major earthquake.

Source: Triggered Earthquakes and Deep Well Activities, Craig Nicholson and Robert L. Wesson, 1992.


  Lessons learned from the March 11, 2011 9.0 Tohoku, Japan earthquake.

    • Seismologists across the globe were surprised by the magnitude of shaking that occurred in the segment of fault responsible for the Tohoku quake. Japanese scientists had not believed a quake of such intensity could occur in that area, which in turn impacted tsunami strength estimates.
    • Insights gained from the Tohoku earthquake are leading scientists to re-evaluate the way they’ve assumed many other major faults are segmented. This may end up altering some hazard analyses for the West Coast, and will contribute to improved scenario modeling, building code development, and public warnings about tsunami threats.
    • An unparalleled amount of strong ground motion data were recorded.
    • Many cases of liquefaction were witnessed and filmed for the first time. Liquefaction occurs when soil loses strength and stiffness due to an applied stress like an earthquake and behaves like a liquid, often causing damage to structures and infrastructure.
    • Even though the Japanese had planned and were well-prepared for a 200- or 300-year tsunami, they were not prepared for the 1000-year tsunami (an event that’s likely to occur just once every 1,000 years) that came instead. Consequently, Japan is currently updating its tsunami disaster plans for all of its coastal areas and requiring that all plans take evidence from paleo-tsunami deposits into consideration.
    • Paleo-tsunami deposits are the sand and mud that tsunamis leave behind. By studying deposits from recent events like the March 11 tsunamis, scientists are able to develop criteria for what those deposits look like and use them to examine coastal areas for records of tsunamis that struck centuries back. They can tell when tsunamis occurred and how far inland they reached by looking at the evidence left behind.  USGS coastal and marine geologists Bruce Jaffe, Bruce Richmond, and Rick Wilson have worked with Japanese scientists over the past year to study these deposits in Japan. Said Jaffe, “Japan has learned from this tsunami that it’s necessary to look at the geologic evidence for tsunamis in conjunction with the current understanding of earthquake potential to accurately assess the future tsunami hazard.” He explained that “Each tsunami brings its own sand and mud. Japan recognizes the value of using the very rich record of past tsunamis to help us understand the hazard for future tsunamis.”
    • The United States is also conducting its own paleo-tsunami deposit studies in California, Alaska, the Caribbean, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands to better understand the tsunami risk in those areas.

Ratepayers must pay $64 million in new seismic studies.

Lessons learned about strike-slip faults from 8.6 East Indian Ocean earthquake.

    • On April 11, 2012, an 8.6 earthquake struck the East Indian Ocean along a strike-slip fault – the largest earthquake ever recorded on a strike slip and 10 times larger than any previously recorded strike-slip quake.
    • A large earthquake in one part of the globe can trigger earthquakes elsewhere. In the 6 days after the quake, the number of earthquakes across the globe that were 5.5 or larger increased nearly five fold. “if you asked any of us if this event is possible a year ago, we would have laughed at you”, said Thomas Heaton, seismologist at California Institute of Technology. 9/28/2012, USGS 9/26/2012, Nature 2012

San Onofre and Diablo Canyon nuclear plants are located within the “Ring of Fire”.Ring of Fire

The “Ring of Fire“, also called the Circum-Pacific belt, is the zone of earthquakes surrounding the Pacific Ocean. About 90% of the world’s earthquakes occur there.

See animation of 2011 global 6.0+ earthquakes (using USGS data) and more maps below.

Mexico’s recent 7.4 earthquake (03/20/2012) was 2.5 times larger and 4 times stronger than what San Onofre is designed for. Japan’s Fukushima Daiiachi nuclear meltdown began after a 9.0 earthquake.

Lessons learned about length of a fault.

Known length of a fault is not always a predictor of magnitude as in the 1952 Kern County 7.5 earthquake.

Kern County 7.5 Earthquake 1952

Vertical fracture on the northeast side of Bear Mountain, along the White Wolf Fault. At this location, a vertical displacement of 60 cm (2 ft) and a horizontal (left-lateral) displacement of 45 cm (1.5 ft) were measured along the break. Photo: University of California, Seismographic Station

Seismic evaluations are not required before license renewal. 

San Onofre was originally licensed to shut down in 2013, but was extended to 2022. The plant was designed in 1973 for a 40 year lifespan. In 2013 Southern California Edison plans to ask for an extension to 2042. A comprehensive seismic analysis has not been conducted on San Onofre since 1995, according to an April 2012 Government Accountability Office report.

Magnitude Comparison




Forecasting California’s earthquakes – What can we expect in the next 30 years (USGS)
The Uniform California Earthquake Rupture Forecast, Version 2 (UCERF 2)
California Institute of Technology (Caltech)
Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC)
Nuclear Regulatory Commission
LA Times “50 New California Faults” 04/28/2010
Earthquake Country Information
Kern County Earthquake 7.5 (SCEC)
Significant Earthquakes & Faults in Southern CA (SCEC)
Earthquake Facts and Statistics (USGS)
British Geological Survey FAQS


Map Southern California Earthquake Faults

Southern California 8+ earthquake 30-year probability increased from 3% to 7% due to new understanding about how disconnected faults can jump up to nine feet.  Estimates of the chance of a magnitude 8.0 or greater earthquake hitting California in the next three decades have been raised from about 4.7% to 7%, the U.S. Geological Survey said Tuesday [March 9, 2015].  Scientists said the reason for the increased estimate was because of the growing understanding that earthquakes aren’t limited to separate faults, but can start on one fault and jump to others. The result could be multiple faults rupturing in a simultaneous mega-quake… LA Times, March 9, 2015

USGS A New Earthquake Forecast for California’s Complex Fault System, March 2015

USGS CA Earthquake Risk 2015

USGS California Earthquake Risks, revised March 2015

California Earthquake Probabilities Map -

    Note: Probabilities are outdated on this map. Use 2015 data from above for probabilities

  USGS US %G Force Hazard Map

Global Earthquakes (1900-1999)

Global Earthquakes 1900-1999

Source USGS   

2011 Global 6.0+ earthquakes plotted and animated with sound

.. SONGs and Scripps Seismic Submarine

San Onofre disaster

Our worst nightmare every time the earth shakes in Southern California

18 Responses to Earthquake Risk

  1. CaptD says:

    SoCal is being “punked” by the “Powers To Be” since they know that we do not want Whales and or other sea animals harmed by marine sonic blasting either from the Navy or anyone else!

    In effect we are being TEPCO’d by our Utility and or the NRC; this is not acceptable and I’m sure the new Chairwomen of the NRC who happens to be a World Famous geologist will agree!

    Remember N☢ SORE (San Onofre Reactor Emergency) = N☢ need to do the study…

    Just Say N☢…
    Save US lots of money,
    Remove the RISK of a Trillion Dollar Eco-Disaster like Fukushima,
    Teach all the other Utility/Operators not to try and sneak modifications past the NRC!

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  7. Umi Hagitani says:

    This is a great post, Donna!

  8. MajorTom says:

    It is not difficult to envision a progressive failure (i.e. domino effect) being triggered by a major earthquake, when the condition of the steam generator tubes is unknown and the support system design for the tubes is apparently flawed with respect to limiting flow induced vibration effects.

    Consider a scenario where a major earthquake causes a main steam line to rupture at a location between the steam generator and its main steam isolation valve. The resulting rapid depressurization of the affected steam generator would undoubtably create severe flow-induced vibrational effects in the tube bundle region. How you could model this is anyone’s guess. The enhanced vibrational effects, coupled with higher differential pressure across the tube wall, could result in multiple tube failures and compromise the integrity of the reactor coolant system.

    With all of the mass/energy release into the containment building atmosphere via the affected steam generator, it is possible that the containment building environmental pressure and temperature may exceed the design limits. In addition, when operating the plant at a reduced power level, the inventory of hot pressurized liquid water in the steam generator would be significantly greater than it is at full power (due to a lower void fraction within the tube bundle), so the amount of mass/energy release into the containment building would be significantly greater than what is predicted for a MSLB while operating at full power.

    And what is the condition of the patched containment building walls and the dome? Is the rebar that holds the concrete walls in compression sound? Could there be corrosion issues or reduced pre-tension of the rebars? And what is the condition of the internal liner plating and protective coating?

  9. MajorTom says:

    The 9:11 time stamp on my last post was not intentional. It just happened that way without me being aware of what the time it was. Now, i’m not really into numerology, superstition, or anything like that, but I do know that sometimes unlikely (and strange) combinations of events happen the way they do for a reason.

    Houston, we have a problem!
    Can you hear me, Houston?

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  11. Earthquake says:

    Kei Sugaoka Japan Engineer 4:18min
    1000s Cracks Nuclear Reactors Japan same reactors USA Europe Asia
    What type of nuclear reactor is he talking about ? Westinghouse Reactors ?
    The results of the cracks in the Japanese Nuclear Reactors Mr. Kei Sugaoka is talking about are
    Kei Sugaoka Japan Engineer 2/2
    1000s Cracks Nuclear Reactors Japan same reactors USA Europe Asia

    3) 8865 Cracks in Nuclear Reactor Doel-3, Belgium, 2030 Fractures Nuclear Reactor Tihange-2.
    Tihange-3 shut down because RADIOACTIVE water leaks = the cracks in the Nuclear Reactor Tihange-3 are SO MASSIVE that radioactive water leaks and the Belgian Nuclear Agency FANC still censors the Ultra Sound Inspection Results of the Tihange-3 Reactor, we wonder WHY?!!

    Click to access 3323.pdf

    4) additional 31 pages technical documents by the Euro Greens, Brussels:

    Click to access Comments_on_flaws_Doel_3.pdf

    San Onofre Diablo Canyon + 15 other US Nuclear Reactor EARTHQUAKE
    New Madrid Seismic Zone New Madrid Fault Line

    6) 20/60 Nuclear Reactors of France in WORST possible Earthquake Zone Rhone Valley +
    LARGEST Uranium Enrichment Factory worldwide Pierrelatte Tricastin in WORST EARTHQUAKE ZONE in France, directly on a fault line.

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