North Anna nuclear plant restart could happen next week

MINERAL, VA (WWBT) - Some folks are fearing the worst as Dominion prepares to re-start the North Anna Nuclear Power Plant. But authorities are trying their best to resolve the concerns.

The plant's two reactors were knocked offline by the August 23rd earthquake. Hundreds turned out to a public hearing Tuesday night to voice their concerns about what comes next: A re-start, perhaps as early as next week.

The 5.8 magnitude earthquake was strong enough to cause cracking and shifting; problems that were merely cosmetic, says Dominion's nuclear boss.

"There's no issue with the plant. There's no functional damage that's been found. And the plant's ready to restart and it's safe to restart," said David Heacock, Dominion's chief nuclear officer.

Dominion owns the plant, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission oversees it. Both sides took a grilling from a mostly skeptical audience that offered comments such as:

"Who's responsibility is this?"

"Families should have iodine on hand."

"So that if we opt to evacuate the county and central Virginia..."

"How can we, the public, be certain Dominion doesn't cover up information about the risks?"

On the question of trust, the NRC said Dominion is sworn to an oath, and there are on-site inspectors to verify what Dominion is saying. The NRC agreed with Dominion that -to this point- the plant appears safe.

"I'm glad that people are interested. I'm glad that people are concerned. And I'm glad that we're being open and transparent," said Eric Leeds of the NRC.

Some even said the NRC is waiting too long to turn on the plant.

"Where's the urgency? Let's get back to operation, ASAP!" said one audience member, to a round of applause.

But this earthquake was historic. Never before had a tremor knocked a nuclear power plant offline. With the restart now perhaps just one week away, some who live nearby say it will be no time to relax.

Dominion says it's spent more than $21 million for repairs and testing since the earthquake, a cost that may -one day- result in higher rates for customers.

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