The fairly recent events in Japan have led me to reevaluate the attractiveness of certain digital nomad destinations and to further consider them in a different light. Mind you, this was not a recent development in my thinking, but through a number of calculated decisions, which are less and less based in the “appeal” of the locale, but more on the practicality of day-to-day living.
It may not be readily apparent to some, but living in a place is not quite the same as visiting as a tourist. The tourist normally has a larger than average budget to play with, because often he or she has set aside the extra money to enjoy their brief stay. A local is not as likely to spend as much money, for example, eating out at restaurants every day, or visiting as many sights as possible within a short period of time. Tourists need not concern themselves with the rising price of electricity, or the scarcity of water, for example. Some locales come with their unique set of problems and challenges. Which brings me to the subject of earthquakes and nuclear power plants.
The map above shows you the location of nuclear power plants around the world, marked by purple circles. As you can see, the great majority are concentrated in developed nations, such as United States and in Europe, with the rest scattered near up-and-coming nations, such as India and China, and a few other nuclear plants throughout the world. The green/yellow/red streaks are a heat-map of seismic activity in the world, since 1973, as recorded by the United States Geological Survey (USGS). This deadly combination of earthquake+nuclear plant can have disastrous consequences for those living in these areas, even if they happen to not be directly affected by the initial earthquake.
As you look at the map, you’ll notice a sort of “red chain” that stretches starts up in New Zealand, follows up near Australia, Japan, and reaches its peak near Alaska, where it moves down North America’s coast, Central America, and ultimately South America. All these regions have been in the news in the past couple years due to high seismic activity, more recently occurring in Panama, which experienced a thankfully non-lethal 6.1 earthquake this past Saturday, April 30. The fact that the nearest nuclear plant is hundreds of miles away in Mexico offers some relief because it is one less thing to worry about in the overall scheme of things.
One additional thing to consider is that nuclear plants need a constant source of electricity to operate. If an earthquake (or its effects) disrupt the electric grid supplying power to the nuclear plant, then the plant must operate on energy supplied by backup diesel generators. These generators usually supply power to the plant anywhere from 72 hours up to a week and even more, provided that a supply of diesel fuel is readily accessible to keep feeding the backup generators. Keep this in mind as oil proves to be a shrinking commodity in the world. The growing scarcity of other resources used to power the electric grid, such as coal and gas, is fast becoming a pressing concern as well. Just food for thought if you’re considering a location near a nuclear plant.
I tell you this is not to alarm you, but to help you make better decisions, especially if you are looking to relocate to another country, or even another city within the same country, on a more permanent basis. Personally, I’d rather not live long-term in an area where a nuclear accident has a high probability of occurring (*wink* California *wink*) .
You can’t outrun everything, no matter where you go, but you can significantly improve your odds when you know what you’re up against and can formulate a plan to deal with it. Closing your eyes and covering your ears hoping it won’t happen won’t do you a bit of good. Just know what you’re up against, have a plan, and move on with your life.
*Map by maptd.com