Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The East Coast Earthquake of 2011

Those of us on the east coast have yet another major event to remember – a 5.8 earthquake that shook virtually the entire east coast. No one who doesn’t come from the west is used to such an event, so the level of surprise and mystified reaction was considerable. We won’t know for awhile if there was substantial damage or casualties. Let’s hope for little of the former and none of the latter. But we do know something about the nuclear facilities.

Dominion Virginia Power shut down its two North Anna reactors  as a result of the earthquake, according to the  the company.

The earthquake was felt at the North Anna Power Station and the reactor operators, following procedures, shut down the reactors," said company spokesman Jim Norvelle. "It was a manual shutdown."

The plant declared an alert, the second lowest level of emergency declaration, a commission spokesman said.

About what you’d expect. Virginia was at the epicenter of the quake.

Dominion Virginia Power's Surry Power Station is operating as normal, he said.

Also about right. Power was knocked out at North Anna – it has diesel generators to keep things running - but retained at Surrey.

How about Limerick in Pennsylvania?

“The earthquake was felt, but it didn’t jeopardize the safe operation of the plant. Both units are 100 percent and are online,” Szafran said in a phone interview just before 3 p.m. Tuesday.

“For this type of event, we have procedures in place, including a walk-down of all structures.” No evacuation was necessary, he said.

Indian Point in New York?

Indian Point Nuclear Power Plants have begun “Abnormal Operating Procedures,” according to Entergy Spokesman Jim Steets, after Tuesday afternoon's 5.9 magnitude earthquake. Abnormal Operating Procedures, or AOP, mean that the plant is being inspected for damage, although none has yet been found.

Calvert Cliffs in Maryland?

The Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in Maryland, the closest nuclear plant to Washington, D.C., remained stable at 100% of capacity, a spokesman for Constellation Energy Nuclear Group LLC said Tuesday.

Constellation declared an "unusual event" at the plant, said Constellation spokesman Mark Sullivan.

This story mentions two more.

Mr. Sullivan said the company's nuclear plants in Scriba, N.Y., and Ontario, N.Y., were performing similar examinations although neither plant registered abnormal seismic activity.

These would be Nine Mile Point and R.E. Ginna.

Now, of course, we understand that Fukushima Daiichi in Japan was hit by an earthquake, though it may turn out that it was the tsunami following the earthquake that was the determinative event. No American plant is vulnerable to tsunami and this wasn’t the kind of earthquake that could generate a tsunami.

Regardless of all this, it makes sense that the very fact of an earthquake set reporters to asking about the local nuclear facilities. By and large, reporters have been responsible, calling over to the plants – when the lines were open – and finding out what’s what.

And what’s what? The plant nearest the epicenter closed down – though mostly due to loss of external power - and most of the others (all of the others I found information about) are puttering right along, checking around the plants for any damage but mostly unaffected.

The earthquake just happened a couple of hours ago. There will be aftershocks, though none so far. Most folks, I reckon, are a little shook up. There’s no reason to believe the nuclear facilities should contribute to that, and they haven’t.

Let’s let Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell have the last word:

"In the wake of the earthquake, I would like to encourage all Virginians to check on neighbors and loved ones to ensure that everyone is safe and to continue cooperating with law enforcement and emergency responders working in your neighborhood,’’said McDonnell, who is holding a news conference later today. 

Let’s do that. Check on loved ones, make sure your neighbors are okay, get home safely, calm any panicky pets and turn on the TV or radio to keep up with events. It’s plenty. It’s enough.

2 comments:

Bill said...

"About what you’d expect. Virginia was at the epicenter of the quake."

Almost literally true. North Anna Station is about 12 miles from the epicenter.

reactor safety pros said...

Thank you for the informative update. I am a former SRO at Calvert Cliffs.

Does anyone know which North Anna EDG failed and for what reason (I read that there was a coolant leak). Also, I read that North Anna is trucking in another EDG (maybe the shared SBO Diesel?).

I read that the Quake may have damaged the Switchyard. I believe that there is Off-Site Power available to the High Side of Switchyard.

This means that North Anna is on Natural Circ, MS Dumps (Pressure Control Mode) and Auxiliary Feedwater. I do not know if there is any damage to these systems and their support systems. North Anna has two UHS (Service Water Reservoir and Lake Anna). Does anyone know what the status of these and the Intake Pumps are?

Hate to be specific but if we are not, then the sky-is-falling crowd has lots of ammo.