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Peach Bottom, Other Nuclear Plants Felt Earthquake

According to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Rockville, MD, 12 nuclear plants in the mid-Atlantic declared an "unusual event" and one declared an "alert."

Operations at the Exelon Peach Bottom nuclear power plant in Delta, PA, were unaffected by Tuesday's 5.8 magnitude earthquake, a spokesman for the site told Patch. But personnel knew it happened.

"Absolutely we felt it here at Peach Bottom," said Dave Tillman, a spokesman at the plant. "We declared what's called an unusual event. ... That is a procedural declaration—the lowest of our four emergency [declarations]."

The plant is about 20 miles north of Bel Air along the Susquehanna River. It services northern Harford and parts of Cecil County, but a nuclear meltdown could spread as far south as Baltimore.

Three other mid-Atlantic Exelon plants declared a similar emergency: Three Mile Island and Limerick, also in Pennsylvania, and Oyster Creek in New Jersey. The declaration was lifted at about 5:45 p.m.

According to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission 12 nuclear plants reported unusual events and one, in North Anna, VA, reported an “alert.” Declaring an unusual event triggers certain inspections, said David McIntyre, an NRC spokesman.

“It’s unusual” for so many nuclear facilities to declare an unusual event at once, McIntyre said. 

"North Anna declared its Alert, the second-lowest of the NRC’s four emergency classifications, when the plant lost electricity from the grid following the quake just before 2 p.m. Tuesday," according to an NRC press release. "Power is being provided by onsite diesel generators and the plant’s safety systems are operating normally. Plant personnel and NRC resident inspectors are continuing to examine plant conditions.

"NRC staff in the Maryland headquarters felt the quake and immediately began checking with U.S. nuclear power plants," the press release added. "The NRC is in direct communications with North Anna and is coordinating its response with other federal agencies."

A plant walk-down was underway at Peach Bottom "to confirm that the event has not damaged plant equipment or operations," Tillman said. "We're designed for robust seismic activities."

Tillman said there were no evacuations at the plant and it operated at full power throughout the earthquake.

"Nuclear power plants are built to withstand environmental hazards, including earthquakes," according to the NRC press release. "Even those plants that are located outside of areas with extensive seismic activity are designed for safety in the event of such a natural disaster. The NRC requires that safety-significant structures, systems, and components be designed to take into account the most severe natural phenomena historically reported for the site and surrounding area."

"Plants declaring Unusual Events, which indicate a potential decrease in plant safety, include Peach Bottom, Three Mile Island, Susquehanna and Limerick in Pennsylvania; Salem, Hope Creek and Oyster Creek in New Jersey, Calvert Cliffs in Maryland, Surry in Virginia, Shearon Harris in North Carolina and D.C. Cook and Palisades in Michigan. All these plants continue to operate while plant personnel examine their sites."

Bill Lawson August 23, 2011 at 08:50 PM
Wow, that's good news. I'm glad they are designed for robust seismic activities. Although that's a rather vague description of their design specification.
Max Obuszewski August 24, 2011 at 12:17 AM
We are fortunate in one sense, but those nuclear reactors are disasters waiting to happen. In another sense, we did not dodge a bullet. Those reactors continue to produce nuclear waste, which will plague the environment for some 10,000 years. This is criminal and a noose around the neck for generations far into the future. To save Mother Earth, we must ban nuclear energy and start the conversion to renewables.
Robert Armstrong August 24, 2011 at 12:33 AM
Plus, they were all built by the Low Bidder.
Phil Dirt August 24, 2011 at 12:45 AM
Sure, Max. Piece of cake. All we need to do is develop the technology that scientists haven't been able to figure out for decades. How about you contribute all of your savings to help them out?
Phil Dirt August 24, 2011 at 12:46 AM
And more expensive is always better.Right, Robert?
Bill Lawson August 24, 2011 at 01:11 AM
Though my tone may have sounded a bit condescending toward the comment Tillman made about Peach Bottom. As an engineer, I can confidently say that the nuclear plants in the USA are among the safest in the world. And while many earth friendly folks out there may complain about the dangers of nuclear plants, I seriously doubt, that those same earth friendly folks are not living without electricity. We simply can't shut them down. If we did, we would burn fossil fuel as the replacement. And as we all know, fossil fuel also has its down side.
Robert Armstrong August 24, 2011 at 01:32 AM
Have you ever worked in a nuclear plant? What do you think of the average 20% discrepancy between "As designed" and "As Built"?
Alice August 24, 2011 at 01:44 AM
At least nuclear power is clean. We don't have to worry about cleaning the environment or washing the water fowl with Dawn. Plus we have the NRC to regulate them.
johnny towson August 24, 2011 at 02:03 AM
When Robert was in the military, he designed and built nuclear power plants in 4 different theaters; his depth of knowledge is second to none as he translated his work into 6 different languages. Recently, he built a small reactor for his exclusive country club.
Ed Jr. August 24, 2011 at 02:44 AM
Yes, Robert is a real tool.
Bart August 24, 2011 at 11:28 AM
Relying on Nuclear Power for our needs is really making a deal with the devil. In the short term, they are clean, efficient and as safe as we can make them. But, and there's always the but: Things CAN happen that will damage them; and then there's the nasty job of disposing of spent fuel rods, which have a half-life of hundreds of thousands of years. The facilities that hold them are having leakage problems. Solar and wind are appealing alternatives, but are quite expensive, not as reliable as we'd like, and not powerful enough for our needs. We can't even get biofuels straight - we push fuels made from corn, which puts food in competition with fuel needs, thereby pushing up the price of food. While the most efficient source of biofuels is switchgrass, but there's no Switchgrass Lobby, so we won't be growing that any time soon. And then there's the "Cowboy Problem" Americans love their SUVs, pickups and big cars. When will America be willing to all drive subcompacts, SmartCars or motorcycles as they do in Europe? Not any time soon, I'm afraid. So, I guess, for now, Oil and Nuclear are all we really have.
Paul W. Ross August 24, 2011 at 11:47 AM
He also operates the world's largest Dill Pickle Processing Operation
webski August 24, 2011 at 12:17 PM
I live in Baltimore City and I wish I had a Councilman Olszewski representing me.
Bart August 24, 2011 at 02:20 PM
Sorry, there's coal, too! But that's really messy. Mining, burning..........not good.
Tim August 24, 2011 at 02:25 PM
It won't be long before we reach peak oil. Let's also not forget all the damage we do to this planet even through successful drilling. I'm a big proponent of nuclear power as an intermediate (obviously not permanent) solution to get us off fossil fuels, however as you said waste disposal is a permanent issue. Biofuels and Wind/Solar/Hydro technologies need to be the meta solutions. Although some countries like France are working on technologies to actually recycle the waste (current recycling efficiency is about 13%, if I recall correctly). France is a heavily nuclear powered country - so much so they actually export nuclear energy. They do have that burgeoning issue of waste disposal! Honestly, I'm surprised to read drama here. CNN was trying to fish up drama like this yesterday when they interviewed plant reps here and in Surrey. Bottom line is, we just got the largest earthquake in Virginia in 114 years, and North Anna - 10 miles from it - handled it FLAWLESSLY. It was barely a speed bump. This isn't Japan.
Deskboy in Miami August 24, 2011 at 02:34 PM
And yet the Obamanation is shutting down all coal power plants. What do we then, light our farts?
Bart August 24, 2011 at 03:05 PM
Tim, I think you're right. Earthquake is just about the LAST thing we have to worry about on the East Coast of the U.S. But, I guess they have to talk about something. But, just think about it.....the earthquake that devastated Haiti was of this intensity. Gives us all something to think about when we start complaining about regulations.....building codes, etc. Haiti, now THERE'S a "poster child" for deregulation of all sorts. But, getting back to fuel needs....we need to lessen our consumption of energy as best we can.
Tim August 24, 2011 at 03:38 PM
"But, getting back to fuel needs....we need to lessen our consumption of energy as best we can." - couldn't agree more! Deregulation only serves the needs of the wealthy. As with most anything though, there is such as thing as over-regulation too. Finding the balance is a never ending struggle.

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