Joe Biden holds nearly 8-point lead over President Trump in Michigan, poll finds
SUBSCRIBE NOW
$5 for 3 months. Save 83%.
SUBSCRIBE NOW
$5 for 3 months. Save 83%.

Fermi 2 nuclear power plant 'stable' after earthquake near Detroit Beach

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

A minor earthquake near Detroit Beach rattled Downriver areas and was felt in places through the region, but left the nearby Fermi 2 nuclear power plant in a safe condition, officials said. 

The 3.2-magnitude earthquake was recorded Friday evening south-southeast of Detroit Beach near Monroe by the U.S. Geological Survey, about two miles south of the nuclear plant.

The earthquake, rare for Michigan, occurred at 6:55 p.m just off the shoreline of Sterling State Park, according to USGS.

Depth was determined to be 9.2 km, or about 5.71 miles. The USGS initially reported the quake as reaching 3.4 magnitude.

Fermi 2 plant in background of the Detroit International Wildlife Refuge near the site of an August 2020 magnitude 3.2 earthquake off Sterling State Park.

A magnitude 3.2 quake is considered minor and generally does not cause damage, said Dongdong Yao, a postdoctoral research fellow affiliated with the University of Michigan who has studied seismic activity in the region.

Downriver residents and those as far away as Bowling Green, Ohio, reported feeling the quake. The intensity rippled throughout Downriver, including Trenton, La Salle, Grosse Ile, south to in northern Ohio, as far north as Waterford Township and in Macomb County.

A 3.2-magnitude earthquake was reported near Monroe around 6:55 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 21, 2020.

Officials with the geological agency could not immediately be reached for comment Friday night.

The tremors did not appear to have affected the Fermi 2 nuclear power plant in Monroe County, which DTE Energy Co. runs.

"We remain in a safe, stable condition and we’re at 100% power," spokesman Stephen Tait said Friday night.

The plant was operating at 100% Friday after earlier this month completing a refueling operation that was prolonged by the coronavirus pandemic, according to reports from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The NRC had not posted an event notification report regarding the earthquake by Saturday morning.

Yao said even a minor quake can trigger a sensation of movement in some people while not in others. "Some people might be very sensitive, so they can feel some very minor shaking," he said.

Yao said the temblor was unusual: "If you look back 20 years, this type of earthquake is very rare in this region. 

Friday's quake came more than a year after the agency recorded a temblor with a magnitude of 4.0 in Lake Erie, just off the shoreline of northeast Ohio, in June 2019. That was considered an "intra-plate" earthquake, USGS officials said at the time.

In April 2018, a magnitude 3.6 quake originated near Amherstburg, Ontario, across the Detroit River, some 15.5 miles south of Detroit It was felt at least 40 miles away in parts of Downriver and Dearborn.

Another quake, registering at 4.0, struck south of Galesburg, near Kalamazoo, on May 2, 2015, officials said. Also in 2015, central lower Michigan experienced a minor earthquake that measured 3.3 magnitude on the Richter scale in an area seven miles from Union City, 13 miles from Battle Creek, 14 miles from Coldwater and 47 miles from Lansing.

On Jan. 16, 2018, a meteor that hit Earth sparked a 2.0 magnitude earthquake in Metro Detroit.

Earthquakes "are not generally common" in the region, said Kyle Klein, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. "We’re not near any active fault line."

According to USGS, most of North America east of the Rocky Mountains has infrequent earthquakes. 

"... Most of the enormous region from the Rockies to the Atlantic can go years without an earthquake large enough to be felt, and several U.S. states have never reported a damaging earthquake," the agency said.

The USGS website says that most earthquakes in North American east of the Rockies "occur as faulting within bedrock, usually miles deep."

"Few earthquakes east of the Rockies, however, have been definitely linked to mapped geologic faults, in contrast to the situation at plate boundaries such as California's San Andreas fault system, where scientists can commonly use geologic evidence to identify a fault that has produced a large earthquake and that is likely to produce large future earthquakes."