Declan Butler, reporter

April 22, 2011

A population density map to help provide context to my nuclear power plant proximity analysis

Filed under: Energy,Google Earth,Nuclear,Uncategorized — admin @ 9:50 pm

Following on from the population analysis I published yesterday estimating quantitatively how many people live within certain distances of each of the world’s nuclear power plants, some people have asked me for more information on population distribution itself, and whether it might provide more spatial context for the results of the analysis — for example is the plant close to urban sprawl from a major city. Or why is it that nuclear power plants in France, for example – which with 58 nuclear reactors, is second only to the United States (which has 104) in terms of numbers of nuclear reactors — tend to have fewer people living near to most of them, compared with, for example, much smaller nuclear power nations such as Germany?

So to try provide some more visual geographical context, today I’ve mashed together the results of the analysis I published yesterday in Nature — see here my 3D map of the results of that analysis — with a new very high-resolution global population density Google Earth map for 2010 created by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center operated by Columbia University’s Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN). The underlying data is the same as we used in our previous analysis.

Mashing the two maps together certainly does provide this sort of greater context, but the result of combining them is also a bit visually overwhelming, and may be confusing at first. — so beware.

Here’s a screenshot — you can find the full 3-D interactive mashup of the two maps below the fold.

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April 21, 2011

A GIS analysis of the number of people living near each of the world’s nuclear power plants

Filed under: Energy,GIS,Google Earth,Nuclear,Nuclear accidents,Uncategorized — admin @ 10:19 pm

I’ve published in Nature tonight a GIS analysis I did with the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center operated by Columbia University’s Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN), looking at how many people live within certain distances of each of the world’s nuclear power plants.

It shows, for example, that two-thirds of the world’s power plants have more people living within a 30-kilometre radius than the 172,000 people living within 30 kilometres of the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Some 21 plants have populations larger than 1 million within that radius, and six have populations larger than 3 million. One hundred and fifty-two nuclear power plants have more than 1 million people living within 75 kilometres.

I’ve published the full results in the form of a map which is best viewed using the desktop version of Google Earth — you can download my map file here. The map plots every one of the world’s nuclear plants with circle size indicating the number of people living within 75 km of each plant. Moving the mouse over any circle brings up a label, and the figure for the size of the population. Clicking on any of the plant symbols opens up an information panel showing data for population estimates at 30, 75, 150 and 300 km from the plant, as well as the total power output, and a photograph of the plant.

I did this map fairly quickly, and will add a scale etc soon. Feedback welcome. I can also be contacted at d.butler@nature.com.

I’ll try to publish soon the full raw dataset that we created.

Here’s a screenshot of just one of the plants on the map: Indian Point, near New York.

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How population sizes were estimated

To estimate the size of populations living near nuclear power plants, Nature first created a map, based on the Power Reactor Information System database, an up-to-date database of nuclear reactors that are operational or under construction, supplied by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The IAEA does not provide latitudes and longitudes for the reactors, so we obtained many of these by doing a database merge with the older UNEP-GRID reactor database, which contains data, including geographical coordinates, on reactors up to the year 2000. We manually geocoded remaining entries that lacked coordinate data.

To derive the population estimates, Nature teamed up with CIESIN, whose Global Rural-Urban Mapping Project (GRUMP) population database is one of the best available data sets of global population density. The team, and in particular CIESIN scientists Kytt MacManus and Liana Razafindrazay, overlaid the reactor map with GRUMP population maps for the years 2000 and 2010 in a geographic information system and computed population estimates for both years using concentric zones drawn at 30, 75, 150, 300, 600 and 1,200 kilometres from each nuclear power plant.

February 22, 2008

Iran’s nuclear programme

Filed under: Iran,Non-proliferation,NPT,Nuclear — admin @ 7:43 pm

On 12 February, I wrote a detailed and neutral analysis of Iran’s nuclear programme and its potential capacity to produce weapons. The article was in anticipation of the report by IAEA on Iran sent to its board today, that was intended to wrap up the IAEA’s investigation of Iran’s past and present nuclear activities. The report is classified until 3 March, but has been leaked, and I append a full copy below fyi – as with WHO, other intergovernmental, and government, reports you need to understand diplomatic speak fluently to understand the nuances.

My earlier article also included 2 short boxes — one on the main outstanding issues that IAEA still had to obtain satisfactory answers to, and another on potential weapons break-out scenarios.

Today’s report by the IAEA reveals a disappointing lack of progress, far short of the agency’s expectations. But there is nonetheless reason to believe that reason may yet prevail in this charged dossier, where excessive belligerence on all sides has stalled an acceptable resolution.

I’ve appended below some excerpts from my earlier articles, which may help interpret the new IAEA report. For more detailed analyses of the technical issues in the Iran case, I’d recommend the site of the Institute for Science and International Security, and a January article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist by Richard Garwin, a former nuclear weapons designer who is now a major force for disarmament. Another good source of information is the Nuclear Threat Initiative. The IAEA page on Iran is here.

Abridged excerpts from my earlier articles, and the full text of the new IAEA report appended below:
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