NYT: North Anna nuke plant in situation that no US reactor has ever faced before — NRC has no protocol to see if design held up after quake

Published: September 8th, 2011 at 5:40 am ET


After Quake, Virginia Nuclear Plant Takes Stock, The New York Times by Matthew L. Wald, September 7, 2011:

[T]he North Anna nuclear plant finds itself in a situation that no American reactor has ever faced before.

The shock was bigger than anything its designers thought it would ever experience […]

The situation is so unusual that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, already facing questions about American earthquake safety after a meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant, has no protocol in place for determining whether North Anna’s 1970s design still holds up, post-earthquake. […]

NYT photo gallery of post-quake North Anna

h/t Anonymous tip

Published: September 8th, 2011 at 5:40 am ET


Related Posts

  1. WaPo: One week delay in revealing whether quake exceeded North Anna’s design basis — Seismic detector failed to record data September 4, 2011
  2. “Quake sensors removed around Virginia nuke plant due to budget cuts” — Spokesman: We’re still evaluating “all of the instrumentation that’s at North Anna” to determine forces reactors dealt with August 24, 2011
  3. Quake over twice as strong as North Anna nuke plant’s containment structure was designed to withstand: Feds September 7, 2011
  4. Strong aftershock jolts quake-hit Virginia reactors — Epicenter in same county as North Anna nuke plant September 1, 2011
  5. Officials change story about why North Anna reactors went into automatic shut down after quake — “There were multiple trip signals coming in” September 4, 2011

20 comments to NYT: North Anna nuke plant in situation that no US reactor has ever faced before — NRC has no protocol to see if design held up after quake

  • Nigwil

    Well one thing is certain: After any earthquake that meets or exceeds a structure’s earthquake design parameters then all bets are off as to the integrity of the structure to sustain another aftershock without catastrophic failure.

    The earthquake design is to allow the structure to sustain one design event and let people get out safely. Once the structure is hit by a design event then there is no way to analyse the integrity of the structure from that point as there is no way to test every bit of reinforcing and every bolt and member to see if it failed internally, and is basically just holding hands to look good in place.

    This was tragically demonstrated with the CTV building in Christchurch, New Zealand. It survived a quake in September last year, was inspected and passed as sound. But in an aftershock early this year it collapsed, killing almost 200 people inside.

    Structurally the North Anna Nuclear Power Plant is now in an indeterminate state, and should be shut down and dismantled or abandoned.

  • itstomd

    Some day we will inject microbes or make nano microbes to eat nuke waste.

    Apparently these microbes like and eat uranium..

    Maybe really tiny things can get around heavy radiation.

    Microbes Generate Electricity While Cleaning Up Nuclear Waste


    “Our findings clearly identify nanowires as being the primary catalyst for uranium reduction,” Reguera said. “They are essentially performing nature’s version of electroplating with uranium, effectively immobilizing the radioactive material and preventing it from leaching into groundwater.”

    • westcoastgirl westcoastgirl

      Do they produce any kind of waste? Just wondering if that could be a problem…

    • NoPrevarication NoPrevarication


      Duh! What would these nano microbes do to human beings???

      • itstomd

        I think how it works is that they eat the uranium, that creates energy as waste. That waste is reused to seal the unranium. They say it electroplating them, which means it changes the atoms charge using the electric to remove stop it from exploding (radation).

        I could be wrong, but when any radioactive atom “explodes” because its so unstable. This micobe changes the atom, with electric to in effect make it stable.

        LOL since these microbes are not designed to be in humans. It needs radioactive uranium to live! so they prob die in you.

        Maybe when you are so small, like a microbe, you may not get hit as much as a human with radiation, surface area so tiny, thus this microbe lives on uranium its likes it, and alot of it.

        I mean look, the “water bear” has some pretty interesting survival abilities


        First, some were heated up to sizzling temperatures of 90ºC. Then a group was frozen at -196ºC. The next batch were given a dose of radiation similar to what they would receive in space — around 4,000 times stronger than that which would make humans ill. The last group of water bears were covered in a dissolving chemical (99.8% acetonitrile) which may be present in Titan’s atmosphere.

        The results, published in a recent issue of the journal Astrobiology, were that water bears in their suspended animation state survived everything that was thrown at them. Active creatures were less fortunate, but some did tolerate the extreme conditions. Now that their tolerances to specific stresses are known, plans are underway to expose them to many harsh environments simultaneously.

    • ocifferdave

      Radioactive microbes and sunflowers. Just feed their mutant dead remenants to banana trees as fertilizer…then burn the banana orchard for good measure. We are stoopid.

  • James2

    “Think of all the money to be made by reopening the plant!”.

    They don’t think that way. They’re thinking of all the money they are losing by not reopening the plant, and the bankruptcy they would face from dismantling it.

    It’s exactly like when you own a house and it gets hit by an earthquake and you don’t have earthquake insurance. Regardless of whether they condemn the house or not, the bank still wants the house payment each month – in fact they probably will call the loan, because you didn’t take care of the house properly – you still need a place to live, and now you have a ton more expenses.

    The utility will no doubt try to restart the reactors, but this is where folks like the NRC earn their pay by making tough decisions.

    Not only this, but you probably also just added a new design requirement to the new reactor that makes it about 4x the cost.

  • James2

    Another thought.

    If I lived in the immediate area – and I know a couple folks that do. I would make sure I get a record of any engineers or managers or anybody else in authority who’ve inspected the plant and/or signed off on any restart of equipment in that plant after this announcement.

    I would have the state authorities send them notification that they will be personally (and if available criminally) liable for any injuries or deaths that are subsequently caused by their decisions.

    Of course they will then go to their attorneys and ask them if they should sign off, and the attorneys will ask them what they think about the situation, and say “no way”.

  • NoPrevarication NoPrevarication

    Quote from NYT article:

    “Engineers did find a shallow crack in the concrete wall in one of the feed-water buildings, but a careful examination revealed that it was full of dust, indicating that it predated the earthquake, they said. ”

    Thankfully it was an old crack that nobody had noticed before. I am so relieved. NOT!

  • NoPrevarication NoPrevarication


    “but this is where folks like the NRC earn their pay by making tough decisions.”

    Hmmm. Wondering how many “tough” decisions they have made in the last 20 years. Ummm, let’s see, there was….or maybe it was…. Strange, can’t think of a single one. Maybe they are too highly paid?

  • James2

    So I did a little looking at the NRC regulations 10CFR

    There are clearly laid out specifications for inspection and design in 10CFR21 and 10CFR50.

    Interestingly, they clearly point out that it is an inspection violation to exceed the design specification and they refer to other engineering specifications – which I’m pretty sure will say the stuff is scrap if it exceeds the design specs – but they don’t come right out and say that.

    The procedures – although very detailed from an inspection standpoint, don’t give any guidance on disposition. Surprise, surprise.

    However in both 10CFR21 and 10CFR50 it is a clear federal criminal issue (felony) to violate any of the regulations. So one must dig down into the reference docs in order to understand the disposition recommendations – I don’t have time right now.

  • Just like Fuka, everything is fine, Lets put it online again !!!

  • Edward Edward

    The nuclear industry is driven by greed. I do not believe a word they say. Even the lower level employees and their families want nuke plants kept just to make big money, but ignore that it is at the expense of human health and the environment. It is insane how people put money before health/environment.

  • lam335 lam335

    And remember that this plant is itself built on top of a fault line.

  • alasanon

    The announcement that the NRC determined that the quake EXCEEDED the plant’s design basis appeared on the front page of today’s USA Today newspaper….strange picking that up in Virginia!
    …By the grace of God. On a wing & a prayer!! (if you don’t understand what it’s like, maybe you will soon!)

  • James2

    Nuclear regulations:

    10CFR21.62 (5) The proposed inspections, tests, analyses, and acceptance criteria are necessary and sufficient, within the scope of the standard design, to provide reasonable assurance that, if the inspections, tests, and analyses are performed and the acceptance criteria met, the facility has been constructed and will be operated in accordance with the design certification, the provisions of the Act, and the Commission’s regulations; (6) Issuance of the standard design certification will not be inimical to the common defense and security or to the health and safety of the public


    (a) Section 223 of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended, provides for criminal sanctions for willful violation of, attempted violation of, or conspiracy to violate, any regulation issued under sections 161b, 161i, or 161o of the Act. For purposes of section 223, all the regulations in part 21 are issued under one or more of sections 161b, 161i, or 161o, except for the sections listed in paragraph (b) of this section.

    These two regulations clearly lay out the action that must be taken in regard to North Anna

    If the earthquake exceeded the design requirement by 2x – then the plant cannot be operated until redesigned and rebuilt to exceed the new design requirement.

    Anyone that does not follow this rule, is in violation of 10CFR 21.62 and has committed a felony and is also subject to personal civil litigation. This includes NRC regulators.

    • sweettea

      Dear James2,

      I live in Charlottesville and am working on North Anna with a lot of folks from the area immediately surrounding the reactors. We are trying to stop this and lots of people around the plant seem to see the writing on the wall. I am very curious about the NRC Regs you mentioned and noticed that the sections outlining what violations the NRC and Dominion might be running over are not authorized for public viewing. The 161b, i and o sections. I would love to talk to you more about those sections and other actions to stop N Anna from restarting. My email is sara.m.tansey@gmail.com. Our groups website is http://www.notonourfaultline.org

      Thanks for your insights!

      • BreadAndButter BreadAndButter

        Dear Sara,
        wow – congratulations! Your website is great and I applaud you that you’re taking action! Yes! This is what we need!
        I didn’t check if you already posted your site under the “upcoming meetings, gatherings, etc.” forum on this page to allow your info to be found by many others. If not – please do so!
        All the best from soon-to-be-nuke-free-Germany from B&B