Virginia nuke plant shuts down after 5.8-magnitude earthquake

If you live on the east coast in the U.S., you may have felt a little shaking today. An earthquake originating in Virgina and clocking in at a magnitude of 5.8 also happened to occur less than a dozen miles from the state's North Anna nuke plant.

It's difficult to get a clear profile of North Anna amidst the flurry of breaking news surrounding the quake. For instance, plenty of news sites such as the Wall Street Journal are reporting that the plant's two reactors were "automatically taken off line by safety systems around the time of the earthquake." Ask the Richmond Times-Dispatch, based in Virginia — the epicenter of the quake was Louisa County, 40 miles northwest of Richmond — and the paper writes that Dominion Power company spokesman Jim Norvelle said "It was a manual shutdown." Dominion runs the North Anna nuclear plant.

Manual or automatic, the plant's cooling system is currently powered by four emergency diesel generators while operators there make sure everything is fine — and, so far, everything looks good. Read: sensationalism aside, we probably have little to fear. Inspection for damage is ongoing, of course. North Anna wasn't the only nuclear facility to send out an "unusual event." Plants all across the east coast did the same. It was the only one to be shut down, though.

Even without a real catastrophe there's significance here, though, to be sure. Nuclear power, already under scrutiny after the Fukushima disaster in Japan will no doubt be discussed even more critically. North Anna, which saw its two reactors installed in 1978 and 1980, is no doubt going to be in the news for weeks to come — especially considering the "U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission this year ranked the power plant, which employs around 1,000 people, as the seventh most at risk of earthquake damage in the country." That's according to the U.K.'s Daily Mail, which added, "In March, Dominion Power, which operates the power plant, said it was designed to withstand a magnitude 5.9 to 6.1 earthquake."

So, what's the solution? Well, here at DVICE we're pretty fond of the idea of building nuclear reactors that don't have meltdowns, but only time will ultimately tell how this shakes out.

While North Anna appears to be safe and sound, 5.8 is no gentle tremor and there has been some damage. "Residents [in Virginia] reported extensive damage to items inside their homes, but limited damage to buildings," the New York Times writes, and "a spokesman for the Washington National Cathedral, the highest structure in the city, said three pinnacles in the central tower broke off." Fox even cited fears that the "Washington Monument may be tilting." There are also reports of holes in cell service following the rumbles.

Via The Register

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