More Frack Quakes Rattle Alberta, Cause Deaths in China

Regulator shuts down operations near Red Deer. Thousands protest in Sichuan.

Gail Atkinson
Seismic hazard expert Gail Atkinson on dangerous earthquakes triggered by fracking: ‘It is not just happening in Western Canada. It can happen anywhere.’

On Monday Albertans living around the oil-service city of Red Deer, got an early morning wake-up call – a 4.6 earthquake.

Vesta Energy, a privately owned oil and gas company, halted its fracking operations west of the city after the company most likely triggered the quake that temporarily shut down power to nearly 5,000 residents.

It was one of the largest recorded tremors ever to shake central Alberta.

A day later, Mar. 5, the provincial energy regulator ordered the company to suspend fracking operations and report all seismic data for the last three months.

The order announced the regulator was suspending operations at the well site “in order to protect the public and the environment.” Among the harms fracking induced earthquakes can cause are “adverse effects to the environment, public safety and property damage and/or loss,” said the order. MORE

Climate concerns rise as clock ticks for aging reactors

Units 2 and 2 of Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station. Photo credit: Exelon Nuclear/Flickr
Exelon Corp.’s Peach Bottom Nuclear Generating Station in Pennsylvania. Exelon Nuclear/Flickr

PEACH BOTTOM, Pa. — As younger nuclear reactors across the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest are struggling to keep their own lights on amid a surge of cheap gas, one Pennsylvania plant is fighting a much more traditional source of extinction: old age.

Located in southeastern Pennsylvania near the Maryland border, the Peach Bottom Nuclear Generating Station wants to continue churning out electricity, much as it has done for the past 45 years.

To do so, its owner, Exelon Corp., needs to secure a federal license extension for its two reactors to enable the plant to operate out to 80 years. Without the extension, the plant will run up against a 60-year approval in 2033 and 2034, much like the nearly 100 other reactors across the country.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s approval would represent an unprecedented length of time for a commercial plant to operate — a fact that has some critics warning about the public safety implications of an aging facility originally licensed to run for half that time.

Also looming large over the fate of the nearly 2,800-megawatt plant are growing climate implications.

Any meaningful national effort to curb the electric sector’s carbon emissions will likely need a lot of the carbon-free power produced by the existing nuclear fleet, already under economic attack from cheap natural gas, waning demand and cratering costs for renewables.

With limited new nuclear on the immediate horizon, some believe pushing the age of current reactors may be the needed bridge to a zero-carbon energy future. MORE