Sometimes when the earth moves, not everyone notices

June 7, 2024, 7:01AMNuclear NewsCraig Piercy

Craig Piercy
cpiercy@ans.org

On August 23, 2011, at 1:51 p.m., I was standing next to Matt Milazzo, a former ANS Congressional Fellow, on the sidewalk of a high-traffic D.C. street. We were saying goodbye after a pleasant lunch. At that exact moment, a seismic wave from a 5.9 magnitude earthquake in Mineral, Va.—one that would be felt as far away as Canada and cause hundreds of millions of dollars in damage—rippled under my feet. Perhaps it felt too familiar, like a heavy truck passing by, or maybe the oscillation peaked just as I was turning to walk back to my office. Either way, I didn’t feel a thing. The largest East Coast earthquake in 100 years, and I missed it. Completely. It wasn’t until I saw the stunned faces of my colleagues and a few picture frames scattered on the floor of my office that I understood the gravity of the moment.

Today, as I wrap my head around the stunningly large amount of energy that will be required to support advanced data center and AI functions in the coming years, I get the same feeling—that something big and consequential has happened in my larger world and I have been slow to perceive the magnitude of it.

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