The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has announced the establishment of an Atomic Safety and Licensing Board to address a hearing request filed last month concerning Dominion Energy’s subsequent license renewal (SLR) application for the two reactors at its North Anna plant. The application, submitted in August of last year, was docketed by the NRC in October.
The contention: Filed by three anti-nuclear groups—Beyond Nuclear, the Sierra Club, and the Alliance for a Progressive Virginia—the 71-page hearing request argues that Dominion’s environmental report, submitted in support of its application, “fails to satisfy” the National Environmental Policy Act, as well as 10 CFR 51.53(c)(2) and 51.45(a), “because [the report] does not address the environmental impacts of operating North Anna Units 1 and 2 during the extended SLR term under the significant risk of an earthquake that exceeds the design basis for the reactors.”
According to Beyond Nuclear et al., “The significance of the environmental risk posed by earthquakes to North Anna was conclusively demonstrated by a 2011 earthquake whose epicenter was a short distance from the two reactors and whose ground motion exceeded the design basis levels for both reactors. By exceeding the reactors’ design basis, the earthquake disproved the assumption underlying the NRC’s issuance of operating licenses in 1978 (for Unit 1) and 1980 (for Unit 2) and renewal of those licenses in 2003 that the reactors could be operated safely and without significant adverse environmental impacts because their [structures, systems, and components] were built to a design basis of sufficient rigor to protect against likely earthquakes. Because that assumption has been proven wrong, a new environmental impact statement must be created that analyzes this additional, proven risk.”
Background: Located in Mineral, Va., the North Anna plant houses twin 973-MWe three-loop Westinghouse pressurized water reactors. Units 1 and 2 started commercial operation in 1978 and 1980, respectively. The NRC approved the reactors’ initial license renewal in March 2003, allowing Unit 1 to operate through April 1, 2038, and Unit 2 through August 21, 2040.
North Anna is the second nuclear facility in Virginia to seek subsequent license renewal. In 2018, Dominion filed an SLR application for its two Surry units—twin 874-MWe reactors. The NRC is currently reviewing that application as well.
According to Dominion, the North Anna and Surry units produce 31 percent of the electricity for the company’s 2.5 million customers and 95 percent of Virginia’s carbon-free electricity.