Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Earthquake rattles nuclear reactor

North Anna Power Station

Among the scariest elements of yesterday's East Coast earthquake, which was felt from Durham, NC to Boston, Mass., was how closely it occurred to the North Anna Power Station, a nuclear reactor complex, located about 10 miles from the quake's epicenter. As yet, the facility's reactors show no signs of cracks in their concrete containment centers. The nuclear facility is located 92 miles southwest of downtown Washington, D.C. An estimated 1.9 million people live within 50 miles of the plant's nuclear reactors.

The quake knocked out the plant's off-site power source. One of the four back-up diesel generators powering the auxiliary safety systems died within hours of the quake. Sound like Japan anyone?

The North Anna Power Station is designed to withstand quakes of a maximum of 5.9 to 6.1 on the infamous Richter Scale. Yesterday's quake was a 5.9. The North Anna power plant is notorious already. It has accumulated one of the largest concentrations of radioactivity in the United States. The L.A. Times reports that Robert Alvarez, a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies and a former assistant Energy secretary during the Clinton administration noted, the plant’s spent fuel pools contain four to five times more radioactive material than their original designs intended. The plant's reactors are thirty-one and thirty-three years old respectively.

Ahhh, nuclear power. What a country!

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