Little risk to nuclear power plants from earthquake

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter

In the aftermath of the 5.9 earthquake that hit Virginia Tuesday, reports suggest that there is little cause for concern about nuclear power plants located in range of the epicenter.

North Anna Power Station, operated by Dominion Power, is the plant nearest to the site of the earthquake. Reports there say there is little cause for alarm, and Dominion is said Tuesday afternoon that no evacuation was necessary.

“Both reactors at North Anna Power Station were shut down safely with no reports of damage,” according to Dominion Virginia Power’s twitter feed.

“No release of of radioactive material has occurred beyond those associated with normal station operations,” assured a later tweet.

The reactors at North Anna were “automatically taken off line by safety systems around the time of the earthquake,” according to a spokesman for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, reports the Associated Press. Back-up diesel generators are now maintaining “cooling operations,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

WTVR-TV in Richmond initially reported that North Anna was being evacuated; Dominion later disputed that report, tweeting: “The station has not been evacuated.”

The NRC ranks North Anna as the seventh most at-risk U.S. power plant for earthquake damage.

Indian Point, the power plant located in Buchanan, New York, is ranked at the top of that list. Its management has instituted “Abnormal Operating Procedures,” according to The Daily Harrison. Those procedures mean that the “plant is being inspected for damage, although none has yet been found.”

Jerry Nappi, spokesman for Indian Point Power Plants, told that newspaper that during the earthquake, “In the control room, the seismic monitors didn’t register to a level that would need to shut down the plant.”

At another power plant near Maryland’s Calvert Cliffs, Constellation Energy “activated the lowest of four emergency levels,” reports The Wall Street Journal. The company “says increased monitoring and inspections are being conducted at the southern Maryland nuclear power plant, but both reactors are stable and operating at 100 percent.”

A March 11 earthquake in Japan damaged several nuclear reactors at the Fukushima power plant, causing them to melt down and emit radiation at levels intense enough to kill.