ROCKVILLE, MD (WWBT) – Dominion's North Anna nuclear power plant is ready to restart, but the reactors will remain offline for at least a few more weeks.
The reactors, located in Louisa County, were automatically shut down by the 5.8 magnitude earthquake August 23, touching off a heated debate about when it will be safe to re-start them.
Friday, at the Rockville, MD, headquarters of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a more than two-hour public hearing took place, focusing on a key question: Is the plant ready to re-start? Dominion says yes. But the commission won't do it…yet.
The quake struck, and the two reactors shut down. No structural damage. No leaks. But that's still not enough.
"The safe shutdown is only part of the story. There is more to it," said NRC Commissioner George Apostolakis.
The showdown in suburban Washington, D.C. Friday morning illustrated the continued split between Dominion, which owns the North Anna plant, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which oversees it.
"We've demonstrated the units are ready to restart," said Dominion's Chief Nuclear Officer David Heacock.
"The inspection has not been completed, however, and there are several outstanding issues," said Eric Leeds of the NRC.
Issues that include possible hidden dangers beyond the cosmetic damage already repaired.
Inspections, testing, analysis, and repairs during the past two months have been costly. Dominion told the commission it's already spent $21 million.
The strength of the August earthquake exceeded North Anna's design, but the plant withstood it, Dominion said, because of multiple built-in safety checks that worked as planned.
"Unequivocally, no significant damage should have been expected," said Dominion's VP of Nuclear Development Gene Grechek.
Still, the reactors remain shut down, something no earthquake had ever caused before. The restart is coming soon, authorities believe. It's just not happening now.
The NRC wants more testing and analysis. It now appears the restart won't happen until at least November, after another public hearing in Louisa County. That meeting is tentatively set for Tuesday, November 1, 7:00 p.m., at Louisa County Middle School.
As for the $21 million dollar cost of inspections and repairs, a Dominion spokesperson said the company will have to consider whether that will mean a future rate increase for power customers.