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North Anna reactors should be at full power next week
North Anna reactors expected to be operating at full power by early next week

 North Anna Power Station manager Larry Lane led a tour on Sept. 2 after the magnitude-5.8 earthquake.
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Date published: 11/15/2011


North Anna Power Station's two reactors, which have been out of service since the Aug. 23 earthquake, could be operating at full power by early next week.

Richard Zuercher, a spokesman for Dominion nuclear operations, said yesterday that could happen by Monday, and that there have been no significant issues with the restart, so far.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Friday gave Dominion the go-ahead to restart Units 1 and 2. The agency sent in an "augmented inspection team" with a seismic expert and other technicians shortly after the quake, and held a restart readiness inspection in mid-October. The company inspected, among other things, electrical systems, piping, pumps and valves, and reactor fuel.

Restarting the reactors typically takes about four days. This time it is taking longer--about 10 days--to allow for extra inspections and monitoring of the process in the wake of the magnitude-5.8 quake.

Both units automatically shut down during the quake, centered about 12 miles from the plant near Mineral in Louisa County. There was some minor damage, but Dominion and NRC inspectors found no functional damage to plant systems or equipment.

The startup process begins when operators begin to raise the temperature in the reactors to about 580 degrees, at which point control rods are removed to begin the fission process.

Unit 1 was at that stage yesterday. Fission creates heat, which generates steam to turn the plant's two massive turbines, producing electricity. Eventually, the reactors are brought up to full power.

"At each step, we ensure that all equipment is functioning properly," Zuercher said.

"There's nothing significant so far; we might have had a couple minor equipment problems."

Zuercher wouldn't say how much the loss of generation from Units 1 and 2 for nearly three months has cost the company. A refueling, which takes about a month, had been planned for Unit 2 this fall. But that was done early because the units were down, "so we had already budgeted money for that," he said.

North Anna's twin Westinghouse pressurized-water reactors produce 1,806 megawatts of electricity--enough to power about 450,000 homes.

Dominion said in mid-October that it had completed 100,000 hours of earthquake-related inspections and work at North Anna, at a cost of about $21 million.

Unit 1 began commercial operation in June 1978; Unit 2 followed in December 1980.

Rusty Dennen: 540/374-5431
Email: rdennen@freelancestar.com