Virginia Earthquake is Wake Up Call to Nuclear Power Plant Safety

Preliminary government data has brought to the attention of US nuclear regulators the fact the country’s reactors may be in need of some safety updating.
Based on government data analysis by the Associated Press it appears that the risk that a large earthquake could severely damage a nuclear power plant is much higher than was previously thought.

Powerful Earthquakes Challenge for Nuclear Plant

Norht Anna NPP

August’s unusually powerful eastern seaboard earthquake, the strongest to strike Virginia in 117 years, has shaken regulators out of their comfort zone concerning the ability of US nuclear reactors to withstand earthquakes that may strike in the future. The recent earthquake, for example, seems to have surpassed what the North Anna nuclear power plant northwest of Richmond, Virginia, was built to withstand.

Reactors Need Upgrades

There are 27 central and eastern US nuclear plants which are in the greatest need of upgrades, according to the analysis, because they are much more likely to experience an earthquake more powerful than the ones that they were actually built to sustain.

Industry Says Reactors are Robust

The nuclear industry has stated that the Virginia earthquake has proven that the reactors are safe and strong. The North Anna plant in Mineral, Virginia lost off-site power when the earthquake struck, which caused the reactors to shut down, and then they cooled successfully, and then the four giant diesel generators came to life to supply power. About 24 spent fuel containers also moved a bit from the shaking, but the Dominion Virginia Power Company said that everything was sound.

Richard Zuercher, a spokesman for Dominion which operates the North Anna plant, said that the earlier risk assessment is still correct

“because an additional safety margin was built into the design when the station was built.”