Nuclear plant expansion spurs protest outside Dominion HQ

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Louisa residents express concern about the North Anna Nuclear Power Plant restarting after last month's strong earthquake.

Many of those people protested out in front of Dominion Virginia Power's downtown Richmond headquarters.

The plant shut down automatically during the earthquake and has been offline ever since. So far no damage has been found, but the quake was more powerful than what the plant was designed to handle.

Some residents are now having Fukushima-style nightmares about the plant reopening.

Alexis Zeigler lives in Louisa and is part of the "Not on our Fault Line" group that staged the protest. He's one of many people concerned about the North Anna Nuclear Plant restarting after last month's earthquake.

"We've seen Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima," Zeigler said.  "These plants that are supposed to be invulnerable and surprises happen. Well, nobody expected this earthquake either."

He wants more safeguards put in place at the plant.

"They should upgrade it to make it earthquake proof," he said.  "They want to start it back up without any real changes and we think that's dangerous."

Dominion says the earthquake was more powerful than what the plant was designed to handle when it was built in the 1970's.

Richard Zuercher is a nuclear expert with Dominion. He says crews have spent the last month inspecting every piece inside the plant.

"We are not going to restart these units until we think it's safe to do so," Zuercher said.

Dominion says the plant was designed to withstand violent California-style earthquakes, not the vibration-style earthquakes we see here in Virginia.

Protesters say they're concerned about what would happen if another 5.8 magnitude earthquake hit Louisa.

"If that thing had a major radioactive leak, are you going to evacuate Richmond? Newport News? Virginia Beach?" Zeigler asked.  "I mean that cloud would come this way. It's unconceivable how we would handle that."

The nuclear plant still needs federal approval before it can reopen.

Dominion says it's not sure when that might happen but it expects the green light to restart the plant in the next few weeks.

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