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SBC # 480 Richard Ely, Paleoseismology: Evaluating Seismic Hazards for Massive Dams & Nuclear Power Plants of the 70’s & 80’s


March 4, 2020
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
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Hopmonk Tavern Sebastopol
230 Petaluma Ave.
Sebastopol, Ca 95472 United States
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Paleoseismology is the study of prehistoric earthquakes, in particular their location, timing, and size. How does this relate to the licensing and regulation of the massive dams and nuclear power in the western USA during the 1970’s and 80’s? The story begins with the proposed Bodega Head nuclear power plant, which was (unwisely) sited within the San Andreas fault zone (this did not go well).  In response to this debacle, the Atomic Energy Commission required Safety Analysis Reports to be prepared for each proposed power plant before it could receive an operating license.

Geology Dude will tell stories and describe his experiences in the 1970’s and 80’s when the new science of paleoseismology began to be applied to the licensing of of massive gams and nuclear power plants. He participated in safety analysis studies of the proposed Auburn Dam (not built), the Satsop Nuclear Power Plant in western Washington (partially constructed and then abandoned), the Humbolt Bay nuclear power plant (not allowed to resume operations), the Stanislaus nuclear project (never built), and the Paradox Basin and Yucca Mountain nuclear waste burial projects (not built, although Yucca Mountain is a good site). The South Texas Nuclear Project was built, but was the subject of successful lawsuits due to major screw-ups in the construction of the plant by Brown & Root, Inc.  Although he was originally hired to do this, he was not allowed to work on the fault studies for the Trans Alaska Pipeline because of his history of anti-Vietnam war activism.

Richard Ely is a consulting geologist with a lifelong interest in paleogeography. On occasion, he now works as an environmental geologist in Sonoma County evaluating and cleaning up contaminated sites.  He was educated at Cornell University and the University of Illinois. In light of his professional history, he thinks he may be some sort of a jinx.