Va. Nuke Reactors Won't Restart Until Safety Assured

By MICHAEL FELBERBAUM
|  Friday, Sep 2, 2011  |  Updated 6:41 PM EDT
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Dramatic Photos: 5.8 Quake Hits East Coast

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Nuclear Plant Containers Shifted in Quake

During last week's earthquake, containers at the North Anna Nuclear Plant shifted as much as 4.5 inches.
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Dominion Virginia Power won't restart the nuclear reactors at its North Anna Power Station rattled by the Aug. 23 earthquake until the company is convinced it is safe, officials said.

The plant about 11 miles from the central Virginia epicenter of the 5.8-magnitude quake was shut down within seconds of the tremor that shook tens of millions along the East Coast.

There was only cosmetic damage and the plant is safe, according to Dominion, but reviews of what happened at the facility after the quake and inspections continue.

The information gathered will help determine what safety improvements might need to be made.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission also is inspecting the plant.

Dan Stoddard, senior vice president of nuclear operations for Dominion, could not provide a date for restart. However, the company anticipates having its final analysis complete next week. Based on preliminary data, the plant did exceed some seismic measures for its site design.

Dominion had said Thursday that the earthquake caused 25 massive nuclear storage containers at the plant to shift, but they remained intact. The containers are used to store used fuel and weigh about 115 tons when full.

Dominion is evaluating whether to move the containers back, but said they are still safely spaced.

The two North Anna reactors are among 27 in the eastern and central U.S. that a preliminary Nuclear Regulatory Commission review has said may need upgrades. That's because those plants are more likely to get hit with an earthquake larger than the one their design was based on.

When fully operational, the plant produces enough energy to power about 450,000 homes. Dominion is using other power sources in its generation system to make up for the plant being offline. There is no available cost estimate related to the shutdown.

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