September 9, 2011 / 2:47 PM / 8 years ago

NRC rejects quick restart at Virginia nuclear plant

HOUSTON, Sept 9 (Reuters) - Nuclear regulators shot down an ambitious five-week timeline proposed to restart Dominion’s (D.N) two North Anna reactors in Virginia during a public meeting on Thursday to discuss the Aug. 23 earthquake that knocked the station offline.

The 1,806-megawatt station has remained shut since it automatically tripped last month after the unusually strong 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck roughly 12 miles (19 km) from the plant in Mineral, Virginia.

On Thursday, Dominion officials said Unit 1 could be “physically” ready to restart by Sept. 22.

Dominion also said Unit 2 — set to begin a refueling outage in late September — could be refueled and ready to restart by mid-October.

An official from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, however, noted that the agency’s special inspection team may be finishing work at the site around Sept. 22 and warned that more meetings will likely be needed between Dominion officials and the NRC to better understand the company’s plan to restart the plant.

Dominion’s top nuclear officers gave details of the quake’s seismic impact at the site, of the minor damage found at the site and outlined a lengthy list of inspections, tests and reports they plan to complete to satisfy the NRC that the North Anna reactors are safe to return to service. [ID:nN1E7870JL]

No other schedules for the restart were offered or suggested by the company or the NRC staff during the three-hour meeting.

Dominion officials said it now appears the reactors shut when the earthquake caused a problem inside the cores at both units rather than from the loss of outside power to the plant as initially reported.

“It looks like the (fuel) rods were going into the core prior to the transformer opening,” possibly from a relay problem, a Dominion executive said.

Dominion is still working to understand the “root cause” of the plant shutdown as multiple automatic trip signals from various indicators were received within seconds of the quake. (Reporting by Eileen O’Grady; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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