East Coast earthquake reveals regional nuclear dangers
A nuclear power plant that was shut down after an earthquake struck central Virginia Aug. 23 had seismographs removed in the 1990s to save money. Officials said that the North Anna Power Station, which has two reactors, lost offsite power and switched to diesel generators to maintain cooling operations after the 5.9 quake. The North Anna plant, which was near the epicenter of the quake, is reportedly located on a fault line. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) rates the plant as the seventh most likely to receive core damage from a quake, although it says the odds are very low. According to the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME), the Virginia Tech Seismological Observatory (VTSO) removed all seismographs from around the plant in the 1990s due to budget cuts. In February, Dominion Virginia Power announced plans to add a third reactor at the plant. (Raw Story, Aug. 23)
Exelon Corp. said that four of its nuclear power plants declared "unusual events" following the earthquake. Exelon's Limerick plant near Philadelphia; Oyster Creek plant near Toms River, NJ; Peach Bottom plant near Lancaster, Pa.;, and Three Mile Island Unit 1 near Harrisburg, Pa., all declared "unusual events," the lowest of four emergency classifications used by the NRC. Plant operators are inspecting facilities and equipment to check for any damage or impacts, an Exelon spokesperson said. (Dow Jones, Aug. 23)
Oyster Creek was in local news last month, when pumps that cool discharge water at the plant shut down, causing a temperature rise and fish kill in a canal. Electricity stopped due to a problem with the Jersey Central Power & Light grid, and the pumps shut down at 8:05 PM on July 29, the NRC said. Exelon said in a statement that 300 fish were lost due to the temperature rise.
Oyster Creek had been criticized by environmentalists for years for leaking tritium-tainted water and other issues at the plant. After Oyster Creek was approved for 20 years more service in 2009, environmentalists appealed. (Newark Star-Ledger, July 29)
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