The nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan, in which a six-reactor compound was struck by a tsunami, proved the vulnerability of reactors to flooding. Three of the units were destroyed. Nine US nuclear power plants are within about three kilometers of the ocean. Independent experts consider four of them, including two shown here—the Hope Creek Generating Station (the cooling tower billowing a cloud of steam) and Salem Nuclear Generating Station (the double domes on the right) in Lower Alloways Creek Township, New Jersey—especially vulnerable to sea level rise and storm surges. Fortunately, the risk of a tsunami, though not zero, is considered low on the US east coast. Image by Alex MacLean. United States, 2019.
During his flights between Maine and Florida, MacLean noticed something he hadn’t given much thought to before: thousands of industrial sites and vast amounts of critical infrastructure perched perilously close to the water’s edge, not far above the current high water level.