These little earthquakes…here we go again…

About this time ten years ago, I bought a copy of the Tori Amos album Little Earthquakes. I listened to it over and over, especially the title track, which conveys the sense of pain and desperation that I felt back then over what I thought was heartache. I was living in the high desert of California, by myself for the first time ever in my life, and Tori’s pained lyrics seemed to go so well with my emotional state.

Oooh these little earthquakes…here we go again.
Doesn’t take much to rip us into pieces.

After I met my wife eight years ago, Tori went back in the big box of CDs, where she has remained until a few weeks ago. I dug her out and started listening again. I can’t explain how attractive certain songs are for you when you feel a certain way.

Ten years ago, I might have been forgiven for listening to Little Earthquakes. I only lived a few kilometers from the San Andreas Fault, that huge north-south rift scarring California. Life has little earthquakes too, and sometimes it has big ones.

There was a little earthquake in Japan last week that has brought nuclear energy back into the headlines in the way that nuclear folks don’t usually want. Sensationalized media talk about radioactive water spilling into the Sea of Japan, and professional anti-nuclear activists are having a field day screaming about how dangerous earthquakes are to the reactors of the United States.

On a related note, Assemblyman Chuck DeVore of California is working on a ballot initiative in California to legalize the construction of new nuclear reactors. His bill has exclusions for reactor construction in areas where seismic safety is a concern, which according to this map, is a large fraction of the state:


Unfortunately, as I read this map, it appears that a large fraction of the state is off-limits to conventional reactor construction. Certainly many of the parts where the people live!

Some time ago, I had the idea to base thorium reactors in submarines that would float several miles offshore and provide power and fresh water to coastal residents. A little investigating showed that others had had similar ideas (but not with thorium reactors). A common thread in the patent applications for the ideas (and there were several) was that such an arrangement provides a great deal of safety in the event of seismic activity. Essentially, your reactor is floating in a big viscous medium and can “ride” out even the worst tremors.

Such an idea perhaps ought to receive greater consideration for places like California and Japan. There’s nothing we can do about the fact that there will be “little earthquakes” in those places for many tens of thousands of years, but we could base reactors in such a way they they could ride out those events without concern for damage to the reactor.

Something to think about.

Discuss and comment on this subject on the Thorium-Forum.

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