With the approval of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), workers at the North Anna, Virginia, nuclear power plant began restarting the plant’s two reactors on November 11. The process is expected to take about ten days if there are no problems. NRC inspectors will be observing the restarts. The reactors went into automatic shutdown during the 5.8 magnitude earthquake of August 23, 2011. The epicenter of the Virginia quake was about eleven miles from the nuclear power plant.
Dominion Virginia Power operated the North Anna Nuclear Power facility, which contains two reactors. North Anna 1 came on line in 1978. North Anna 2 followed, in 1980. These two reactors represent the first nuclear power plant in the United States ever shut down by an earthquake.
Dominion has worked closely with the NRC to inspect the plant for damage. Dominion says that it has invested over 100,000 man hours and $21 million in the process. No functional damage was discovered. Devices measuring the forces from the earthquake did record accelerations at certain frequencies that slightly exceeded the plant’s design specifications. The NRC is following up with Dominion for updated processes and procedures, and the installation of additional monitoring equipment.
North Anna was the only facility to go into shutdown due to the August quake. It was felt at at least twelve other nuclear plants, in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Michigan, but none needed to shutdown.
Louisa County, Virginia, was at the center of the August 23 Virginia earthquake. It has received a Federal disaster declaration. Two local schools were so damaged that they have been closed for an indefinite period of time. The students are being taught in temporary facilities.
Also still recovering are two landmarks in the District of Columbia.
The Washington Monument remains closed from the effects of the August 23 earthquake centered about 84 miles southwest of the edifice. The Monument has been inspected from the outside by camera and by personal inspection of engineers using climbing equipment. The interior has also been thoroughly inspected. The elevator has been returned to service as safe. Cracks are visible on the exterior and the interior. Joint mortar has been displaced. Some of the blocks show spalling. The primary concerns are weatherproofing the structure and ensuring that no further damage occurs.
The Washington Cathedral also sustained damages after the August 23 Virginia earthquakef. The ornate details and structures on the exterior of the building have shown the most damage. Several of the cone shaped pinnacles on the tower will need to be replaced. Flying butttresses have also sustained enough damage to require repairs. One gargoyle has cracked with its head detached from its body. In the interior, damage consists of mortar and other small debris falling from the ceiling. The exterior damages have been secured and netting deployed to catch any falling debris in the interior.
Damage costs remain unclear. The two Louisa County schools that have been shutdown have suffered $27 million in damage alone. The Cathedral repairs will run into the tens of millions of dollars. Damages to Washington D.C. government facilities is estimated at $6.8 million.