"To work on risk factors, to work on research and setting model codes...as well as deep-science to work on prediction. That legislation was not taken up in the Senate," Wu says.
Then Japan happened. That prompted California Senator Barbara Boxer to pick up the bill in the Senate and Wu to reintroduce it in the House.
"It's a long and not very sexy acronym -- NEHRP -- National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program. I believe..." he says.
Today, a subcommittee of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee has a hearing on assessing earthquake risk reduction in the U.S. Wu has good reason to take an interest in the issue: it's called the Cascadia Fault.
"It is about 250 miles long...it's a little bit off the coast of Washington and California in addition to the entire coast of Oregon," Wu explains. "Periodically, about every 300 years or so, this fault line has had magnitude 9.0 earthquakes."
He says "every 300 years or so"... and we're well into the "or so."
Wu: "We are at year 309."
Elizabeth Wynne Johnson: "Well that's not good."
Wu: "No, it's not good. The last one was in 1701."
To be fair, that 300 year interval is just an average. Over the last 12,000 years, the actual intervals range from 200 years to almost a thousand years.