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Study: Earthquakes near Hanford not as unlikely as first thought

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For years top scientists have said a big earthquake near the Hanford Nuclear Reservation is highly unlikely in our lifetimes. Now, a new geological study is being published, and what it says is shaking up assumptions.

Basically what Richard Blakely and his colleagues at the U.S. Geological Survey are saying, is that earthquakes probably aren’t as uncommon in eastern and central Washington as previously thought. Their findings are important because there’s sensitive stuff in central Washington – like dams and the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. For three years the USGS flew survey planes and dug trenches along fault lines to investigate the theory that the Puget Sound faults connect to Eastern Washington.

“I have the feeling, looking at the pattern of faults in the Puget Sound and the pattern of faults in the Yakima fold and thrust belt that they must be connected in some way through the Cascade Range. If we have faults that are dangerous on the west side we need to be thinking about where that strain goes in an eastward direction.”

Blakley’s paper has been accepted for publishing in the Journal of Geophysical Research. And federal research into inland northwest seismic risk continues.

Copyright 2011 Northwest Public Research

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.