Thursday, September 1, 2011
VA quake rattled nuclear plant's waste casks
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The earthquake that shook the East Coast last week rattled casks holding radioactive nuclear waste at a Virginia plant, moving them as much as 4.5 inches from their original position, the plant's operator said. The 5.8-magnitude quake shifted 25 casks, each 16 feet tall and weighing 115 tons, on a concrete pad at Dominion Resources Inc's North Anna nuclear plant. "There was no damage to the casks and no damage to the fuel," Dominion spokesman Rick Zuercher said. "They were designed to withstand earthquakes." The movement of the casks will be part of a special review under way by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, an NRC spokesman said. The plant, located about 10 miles from the earthquake's epicenter near Mineral, Virginia, has been shut down since the August 23 quake as inspectors check for damage. The NRC is conducting a special review because of preliminary data showing that shaking from the quake exceeded the plant's design rating. The regulator already was scrutinizing how well the U.S. fleet of 104 reactors could withstand earthquakes, floods and other disasters after a quake and tsunami wrecked Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant in March, the world's worst nuclear disaster in 25 years. The United States, which has the world's largest nuclear power industry, has deliberated for decades over how to store waste permanently, and the U.S. government is considering a proposal for a network of centralized "dry cask" storage sites where plants could take their used fuel.