EARTHQUAKE

Dominion's North Anna Power Station can restart

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Dominion Virginia Power's North Anna Power Station, the first operating U.S. nuclear plant shut down because of an earthquake, can restart after being offline since the Aug. 23 tremor that shook millions along the East Coast, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Friday.

The two nuclear reactors at the plant about 11 miles from the quake's epicenter automatically shut down after the 5.8-magnitude earthquake caused peak ground movement about twice the level for which it was designed.

Multiple inspections done by both Dominion and federal regulators show the plant's twin 980-megawatt reactors and other safety components did not suffer any functional damage during the temblor. Dominion has spent more than 100,000 hours and $21 million in inspection, testing, and evaluation at the power station about 50 miles northwest of Richmond.

The plant did experience some cosmetic damage ranging from small buckles and cracks in tile floors in one of its technical buildings, to bolts of large metal parts that transfer power from transformers to the electrical grid and into homes. The quake also caused 25 massive nuclear storage containers at the plant to shift, but they remained intact.

"We're satisfied the plant meets our requirements to restart safely, and we'll monitor Dominion's ongoing tests and inspections during startup of both reactors," Eric Leeds, director of the NRC's Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation, said in a statement.

Leeds said because the earthquake shook the reactors more strongly than the plant's design anticipated, Dominion had to prove that the quake caused no functional damage to the reactors' safety systems.

Dominion said it expects it will take about 10 days for the plant to be fully operational as both reactors will be restarted in phases and testing of all safety equipment and inspections of containment areas will be done during that process. The company also said it plans to have additional staffing at the plant during the restart.

It will first start Unit 1, gradually raising the water temperature to 580 degrees Fahrenheit and increasing the pressure to 2,250 pounds per square inch over six days. The restart process for the second unit also will start during that time in order to bring both reactors to 100 percent and provide electricity to the transmission grid.

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