Bloomberg News

Dominion’s North Anna Reactors to Stay Shut for Inspections

October 03, 2011

(Updates with comment from Dominion official in fifth paragraph.)

Oct. 3 (Bloomberg) -- Reactors at Dominion Resources Inc.’s North Anna power plant, idled by a Virginia earthquake, will remain shut while the Nuclear Regulatory Commission conducts more than a week of inspections, the agency said.

The NRC plans to examine through Oct. 14 the reactors’ readiness to resume operations, the agency said today in a document distributed at a meeting with Dominion officials at the complex, about 11 miles (18 kilometers) from the epicenter of an Aug. 23 temblor. Inspections will begin Oct. 5.

“The plant won’t be allowed to start up unless we believe that it’s safe to do so,” Eric Leeds, director of the NRC’s Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation, said at the meeting.

North Anna’s twin reactors have been shut since the 5.8- magnitude quake, which exceeded the plant’s design limits. Agency officials said inspections immediately after the quake didn’t find significant damage, echoing an assessment by Richmond, Virginia-based Dominion.

Dominion plans to have North Anna’s Unit 1 prepared to restart “tomorrow or the next day,” said David Heacock, president of Dominion Nuclear. Unit 2 will be refueled and ready by the end of this month, he said. The reactors can’t begin supplying power again until Dominion gains NRC approval.

The North Anna reactors can generate enough electricity for 450,000 homes, according to Dominion’s website.

Reduced Impact

Since the earthquake, Dominion has been replacing the loss of North Anna’s capacity by using its other generators or buying power from the electric grid. The utility is able to buy electricity relatively cheaply because of cooler fall temperatures, reducing the impact on consumer prices, Heacock said. Unit 2 was scheduled to close for refueling, he said.

“This time of year is the perfect time of year to have an outage” at the facility, Heacock said.

NRC inspectors at North Anna observed “anomalies” on some safety-related equipment, “raising questions about instrument qualification,” the agency’s document said. These included “fluctuations in readings” in the steam generator, Greg Kolcum, the commission’s senior resident inspector at North Anna, said.

Equipment problems didn’t pose a danger to the public during the quake, Kolcum said.

Safety Systems

The NRC has been assessing the plant in a “reactive” inspection, according to Kolcum, who was in the facility’s control room during the earthquake.

Starting Oct. 5, the agency will check all safety systems, including electric wiring, piping, valves, pumps and cooling components to ensure that the plant can safely generate power, he said.

Seismic monitors “may not have been located in the best places to accurately determine” whether ground shaking exceeded the plant’s design, the NRC document said. Monitors weren’t installed in a storage area for steel containers containing radioactive waste, the NRC said. The casks, which weigh about 115 tons each, shifted as much as 4.5 inches during the quake.

The power-plant staff responded to the earthquake in a “manner that protected public health and safety,” according to the NRC’s document.

--Editors: Judy Pasternak, Steve Geimann

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Wingfield in Washington at bwingfield3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Liebert at lliebert@bloomberg.net


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