Could an earthquake cause a nuclear leak in South Carolina? - - Columbia, South Carolina |

Could an earthquake cause a nuclear leak in South Carolina?

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Smoke rises from Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant Smoke rises from Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant

By Logan Smith - email | bio

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A disaster like the earthquake and nuclear leak in Japan might feel far away, but the chance such an incident happening in South Carolina is actually greater than you might think. However, emergency officials say if something like that does happen here, they'll be ready.

If you think a nuclear leak like the one in Japan can't happen here, think again. "South Carolina has more nuclear power plants per capita than any state in the country," said Derrec Becker of the South Carolina Emergency Management Division.

And the 'big one' has already hit South Carolina once before. "The largest earthquake to ever hit the East Coast was in 1886, and the epicenter was right outside of Charleston," said Becker.

"As we've seen in Japan, there are some things that can happen naturally, so we do want to plan for that," said Mary Nguyen Bright of the Department of Health and Environmental Control.

If a plant like V.C. Summer near Columbia starts leaking radiation due to a natural disaster, DHEC and the Emergency Management Division say they'll evacuate a 10-mile radius around the area. Then, crews go to the site and start testing the damage and the danger.

"They'll monitor the air," said Bright. "They will take water samples, vegetation samples, soil samples, and process them quickly to see if any radiation exceeds background levels."

One of the tools in DHEC's arsenal is a radiation portal monitor, similar to an airport metal detector. If someone contaminated with radiation walks through, the machine beeps a warning and tells exactly where on your body the radiation is located.

Emergency drills are conducted two to three times a year, so crews can stay ready no matter what happens. "You never know when the next disaster could strike, so whether it's a natural disaster or a technological disaster, we want to be prepared," said Becker.

Hoping for the best, but staying prepared for the worst.

You can also get involved in preparing for an emergency. The Emergency Management Division is sponsoring an earthquake preparedness drill on April 28 called the Great ShakeOut.

DHEC also gave us a fact sheet listing common exposures to radiation in your own home.

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