How Long Will the NRC Keep North Anna Shut Down?

The short answer is: The North Anna nuclear power plant in Virginia will remain shut down until the NRC is satisfied the plant’s operator, Dominion, has proven the plant’s two reactors can operate safely.

The NRC’s been examining both the plant itself and Dominion’s response to the Aug. 23 quake ever since the event itself – one of the agency’s resident inspectors was in the plant’s control room when the quake hit. We supplemented our residents with an Augmented Inspection Team the following week, and that team discussed its preliminary findings Oct. 3 at the plant.

The team concluded North Anna shut down safely after the quake, despite the plant having faced stronger shaking than what was anticipated during its licensing. The team examined Dominion’s work and conducted its own inspections, all of which showed only minimal damage to a few of the plant’s systems. Another group of agency experts from the agency’s headquarters and Region II office in Atlanta will continue the North Anna inspection effort next week.

In order to most effectively review the information on North Anna, the NRC’s Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation has set aside headquarters staff to focus on the issue of plant restart. The NRC met with Dominion Sept. 8 (see the meeting’s webcast), where the company laid out its rationale for restart and the NRC staff asked questions in several technical areas related to restart safety. Dominion started to answer those questions with information on Sept. 17 and 27, but there’s more work to do.

In particular, the NRC wants to ensure Dominion has done an extensive set of inspections – a lesson learned from experience at a Japanese reactor damaged by a 2007 earthquake. The NRC also wants to ensure Dominion has appropriate plans for monitoring the plant during and after restart.

Once all the NRC inspections are done, the staff’s questions are properly answered and we’re satisfied it’s safe for the plant to restart, the NRC will write up a safety evaluation documenting why it’s appropriate for North Anna to restart. The agency expects this entire process will continue past Oct. 21, when the Commissioners will hold a public meeting to discuss the North Anna situation.

Scott Burnell
Public Affairs Officer