Quake Raises Nuke Plant Worries

Time to review standards at nuclear plants, experts say
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 24, 2011 3:01 AM CDT
Quake Raises Nuke Plant Worries
The North Anna nuclear power plant in Virginia was around 13 miles from the quake's epicenter.   (AP Photo/the Free Lance-Star, Suzanne Carr-Rossi, File)

Yesterday's East Coast earthquake was the strongest to hit the region since the beginning of the nuclear age, and safety advocates say it should serve as a wake-up call to nuclear plants using outdated safety standards. At Virginia's North Anna nuclear plant, just a few miles away from the 5.8-magnitude quake's epicenter, the two reactors were automatically taken offline by safety systems, but one of the four diesel generators required to kick in and keep the reactor core cool failed, Reuters reports.

The plant was designed to withstand a quake of up to 6.2 magnitude, and yesterday's quake "was uncomfortably close" to that, says a spokesman for the Union of Concerned Scientists. "If Fukushima wasn't a wake-up call, this really needs to be to get the NRC and industry moving to do seismic reviews of all the nuclear power plants in the country." Victor Gilinsky, chief of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission at the time of the Three Mile Island disaster, says he is concerned that plants like North Anna are not reviewing safety as the understanding of earthquakes increases. (Read more Nuclear Regulatory Commission stories.)

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