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Officials Admit North Anna Fuel Bunker Damaged By Quake As Feds Launch Reactor Core Damage Inspection

The Feds have deployed an augmented inspection team to check the North Anna nuclear plant reactor core for damage as officials admit concealing the spent ...

by Alexander Higgins

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The Feds have deployed an augmented inspection team to check the North Anna nuclear plant reactor core for damage as officials admit concealing the spent fuel bunker was damaged and shifted by the Virginia earthquake.

Officials Admit North Anna Spent Fuel Bunker Damaged By Quake As Feds Launch Reactor Core Damage Inspection
As previously reported, the information about the events that occurred at the North Anna nuclear plant has continued to change culminating in a nuclear watch dog group raising the alarm a cover up of a tritium radiation leak may be underway at the plant.

That was followed by assurances that no radiation was leaked from the plant even as the plant operator admitted the next day they were forced to vent steam from the reactor to prevent a Fukushima style “hydrogen” explosion at the reactor. While officials still asserted the plant was operating safely it begged the question of why the reactor needed to vent steam if the reactor was indeed being properly cooled.

The operator then admitted that radiation had in fact been leaked from the plant, but downplayed the leakage by saying the amount was miniscule and was inline with normal operations, even though the plant was shut down and was not be ran under “normal operation” procedures.

The dam at the nuclear plant has also been classified as a high-hazard by engineers and a local CBS affiliate in fact found over 2o inches of water was lost from the dam following the quake.

Complicating matters even further is officials gave conflicting statements about what triggered the shutdown at the nuclear plant. Some officials were quoted as saying the plant was manually shut down, claims which other officials said were untrue saying the quake triggered an automatic shutdown.

Adding to the concerns, there are now fears that pipes under the facility may be leaking radioactive tritium into the ground. In the past, nuclear plants have gone years and even decades without admitting to tritium radiation leaks.

We have learned that several crucial parts of the North Anna plant were not built to withstand earthquakes.

In fact, the NRC found several crucial parts of the power plant were not protected from earthquakes.

After Fukushima, but before the recent East Coast quake, the NRC began a review of U.S. nuclear plants and found a few “discrepancies” at North Anna including:

Portions of the water and gaseous suppression systems and hose stations are not seismically designed.
A fire-pump storage area is non-seismic.
Seismically designed floodwalls are located in the non-seismic turbine building.
Source: Energy News

Now, nuclear industry watchdogs are raising the alarm that the North Anna plant is likely leaking radiation from underground pipes following the earthquake.

To make matters worse, even given the known history of the nuclear industry covering up leaks, the government is refusing to do an independent inspection into the plants pipes.

Instead, as The Hook reports, the government will allow the plant operator to do their own inspection of the plant.


Energy News now reports that an Augmented inspection team, which is only deployed when the risk of reactor core damage has risen by 100, has been sent to the plant.

Time.Com: “Augmented Inspection Team” Is Only Used When Risk Of Reactor Core Damage Rises By 100 — AIT Already At Quake-Hit North Anna Nuke Plant
Inspectors check Virginia nuclear plant for earthquake damage, Washington Post by Brian Vastag, August 31, 2011:

Inspectors dispatched by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission arrived at Virginia’s North Anna nuclear power plant Tuesday on a three-week mission to assess any damage caused by last week’s earthquake […]

The inspection is unusual, said Scott Burnell, a spokesman for NRC. Such “augmented inspection teams” are dispatched to nuclear plants “infrequently. If I had to put a number on it I’d say once every couple of years.” […]

[Richard Zuercher, a Dominion spokesman] would not provide the amount of shaking revealed by the preliminary analysis. “We want to know for sure what we have,” he said, adding that Dominion would make available a fuller analysis of the shaking by the end of the week. […]

Nuclear Safety: U.S. ‘Near-Misses’ in 2010, Time.com by Eben Harrell, March 17, 2011:

[…] First, a note on how the reactor oversight process works in the U.S.: When an event occurs at a reactor, or when NRC inspectors discover damage or degraded equipment, the NRC undertakes a review of the risk to the reactor. The NRC undertook 200 such reviews in 2010, the UCS report states. When an event or condition increases the chance of reactor core damage by a factor of 10, then the NRC sends out a “Special Inspection Team” (SIT). When the risk rises by 100, the agency dispatches an “Augmented Inspection Team“. And when the risk increases by 1000 or more, the NRC sends out an “Incident Inspection Team.” […]


Source:Energy News

CNN adds more on the Augmented inspection team:

Officials: Virginia quake shifted nuclear plant’s storage casks, CNN by Brian Todd, September 1, 2011 at 10:20 am EDT:

The NRC already has an “augmented inspection team” at the North Anna plant to conduct a review of effects from the earthquake. The team will review the casks’ shifting as part of that investigation, Hannah said.

The NRC initially sent a seismic expert and a structural expert to assist resident inspectors at the site after the earthquake, but “further reviews indicated that additional inspection is warranted,” the commission said in a statement issued Monday. An augmented inspection team is formed “to review more significant events or issues” at NRC facilities, and includes technical experts and additional inspectors.


CNN also reports that officials have concealed from the public, for over a week, that the spent fuel containers at the plant were shifted by the quake.

CNN: Officials Kept News From Public That North Anna’s Spent Fuel Casks Shifted — Have Known Since Shortly After Quake Hit Aug. 23
Officials: Virginia quake shifted nuclear plant’s storage casks, CNN by Brian Todd, September 1, 2011 at 10:20 am EDT:

[Rich Zuercher, spokesman for Dominion Virginia Power] said the casks’ movement was known shortly after the [August 23] quake, which had an epicenter less than 20 miles from the plant, but the news was not released to the public. […]

It is the first time such casks have been shifted by an earthquake in U.S. history, said Roger Hannah, spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, as it’s the first time a quake of this magnitude was felt at a nuclear plant in the country. […]

Source: Energy News

CNN also quotes Rick Zuercher, spokesman for Dominion Virginia Power, contradicting himself first saying there was no damage to the spent fuel containers and then admitting there was damage, but saying the damage as not serious.

Officials: Virginia Quake Shifted Nuclear Plant’s Storage Casks
The nuclear plant might have been shaken harder than it was designed to bear
The casks, each weighing 115 tons, moved between 1 and 4 inches in the quake
No radiation was released and the casks were not damaged, an official says
The safety standards for such casks are “unbelievable,” an NRC spokesman says

The cylinders, each 16 feet tall and weighing 115 tons, were not damaged, and no radiation was released, said Rick Zuercher, spokesman for Dominion Virginia Power, which operates the North Anna Power Station near Louisa, Virginia. Monitors were hooked up to the casks to determine any abnormalities, he said.


“We had a lot going on,” Zuercher said. “There was no indication of any problem … and there isn’t any problem.”


Zuercher, however, confirmed a report in the Washington Post that Dominion Virginia Power had notified the NRC last Friday that the earthquake might have shaken the power station more than it was designed to handle.

An alert was declared at the North Anna station just after the quake struck. The plant’s two units shut down automatically after the facility lost off-site power, according to the NRC. Emergency diesel generators provided power to cool the reactors until off-site power was restored a few hours later.

“An alert is the next-to-lowest NRC emergency classification for plant events, and the North Anna station exited the alert after off-site power was restored,” the commission said in a statement.


Source: CNN

Energy news quotes another part of the same CNN article, were the official admits to the damage.

Spokesman: Quake Damaged North Anna’s Spent Fuel Bunkers; Concrete Came Loose — Not Considered ‘Serious’
Officials: Virginia quake shifted nuclear plant’s storage casks, CNN by Brian Todd, September 1, 2011 at 10:20 am EDT:

Twenty-five of 27 spent-fuel storage casks at a Virginia nuclear plant were shifted between 1 and 4 inches during last week’s 5.8-magnitude earthquake, officials said Thursday. […]

Besides those casks, which are vertical, some of the horizontal bunkers holding spent fuel also were affected. The concrete “came loose on the face” of “a few” of the bunkers, [Rich Zuercher, spokesman for Dominion Virginia Power] said, but the damage is not considered serious. […]

Source: Energy News

Making matters worse, the plant was just hit by another 4.8 aftershock hours ago.

Strong Aftershock Jolts Quake-Hit Virginia Reactors — Epicenter In Same County As North Anna Nuke Plant
Another aftershock jolts Mineral, Central Virginia, Daily Progress, September 1, 2011:

A strong aftershock [4.5 magnitude] emanating from the Mineral area shook up Central Virginians at about 5 a.m. today.

There now have been about 15 aftershocks of varying severity since the magnitude 5.8 quake based in Louisa County on Tuesday damaged homes, led to the shutdown of two county schools and sparked close scrutiny of the North Anna nuclear station. […]

[This morning’s quake] prompted authorities to go back and re-examine some buildings that had already been inspected after the 5.8.

Source: Energy News

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