One of the more surprising victims of this weekend's dramatic tornado flurry that ravaged numerous states causing the deaths of 45 people, were two nuclear reactors operated by Dominion Resources in Surry County, Virginia on April 16. Luckily, it appears that the shutdowns have been contained. From Reuters: "Dominion Virginia Power said the two nuclear reactors at its Surry Power Station shut down automatically when a tornado touched down and cut off an electrical feed to the station. The U.S. south was hit by violent storms over the weekend. No radiation was released during the storm and shutdown, the NRC and the company said. The situation was described as an "unusual event," the lowest of the four NRC emergency classification levels." The Guardian adds: "The US nuclear safety regulator said on Mondayit was monitoring the Surry nuclear power plant in Virginia. Dominion Virginia Power said the two reactors shut down automatically when a tornado cut off power to the plant. A backup diesel generator kicked in to cool the fuel. The regulator said no radiation was released and staff were working to restore electricity to the plant." Perhaps this is a modest but much needed validation that not every natural disaster will result in some form of nuclear incident. Then again, we will follow news of when precisely the Surry plant will officially regain full electricity.
Some more from the Dailypress:
Dominion officials said Sunday that a tornado apparently touched down on the switchyard supporting the nuclear power station and the facility's access road, cutting off the electrical feed from the grid to the station. A backup generator kept power running to both reactors.
One of the two main reactors has been reconnected to the plant's grid.
"We are trying to restore the second feed," said Dominion spokesperson Dan Genest. That process will take several days, he said.
Once the second feed is restored, then the power station will return to full power, Genest said. On Monday morning, the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission's website still showed both reactors at zero capacity.
There were no injuries at the site, Genest said. Power company personnel are working to complete restoration of electrical service to the station, he added.
The tornado did not strike the two nuclear units, which are designed to withstand natural events such as tornados, hurricanes and earthquakes.
From Wikipedia, here is a brief summary of the Surry NPP facility:
The plant has two triple-loop Westinghouse pressurized water reactors which went on-line in 1972 and 1973 respectively. Each reactor produces approximately 800 megawatts of power, for a combined plant output of 1.6 gigawatts. Surry Power Station draws its condenser cycle water directly from the James River, removing the need for the imposing cooling towers often associated with nuclear plants. Repeated testing shows that Surry Power Station has minimal environmental impact and releases virtually no radiation or harmful emissions.
The station site was originally designed for four units; however, only two reactors were built. With increasing energy demands in the United States, it is possible that more reactors will be built at Surry in the next few decades. In 2003, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) extended the operating licenses for both reactors from forty to sixty years.
The Surry plant is similar in appearance and design to its "sister plant" North Anna Power Station, located northwest of Richmond in Louisa County, Virginia.
Surry was one of the plants analyzed in the NUREG-1150 safety analysis study.