A new study in Nature News, “Residents, Reactors, and Risk,” finds that that many of the world’s nuclear power plants are surrounded by large numbers of people. The analysis, carried out by staff from Nature and from the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN), combined a database of nuclear reactors with population data from the Global Rural-Urban Mapping Project (GRUMP), developed by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center operated by CIESIN. The interactive maps accompanying the article permit more detailed exploration of population exposure to nuclear reactor accident risk.
Among other findings, the study shows that two-thirds of the world’s power plants have a higher population living within a 30-kilometer radius than the 0.17 million living within 30-kilometers of the site of the recent Fukushima nuclear accident; with some populations totaling as much as 3 million. The plant with the greatest population (8.2 million) within the 30 kilometer radius is in Karachi, Pakistan. Next greatest is in Taiwan, with one plant surrounded by 5.5 million people and another with 4.7 million; the capital city, Taipei, falls within the zones of both plants. Extending the radius to 75 kilometers, the study finds 152 nuclear power plants with more than one million people, including the Indian Point plant in upstate New York, with 17.3 million people.
For the entire article and interactive map, go to http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110421/full/472400a.html or visit Nature reporter Declan Butler’s blog for more discussion.