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U.S. Nuclear Industry Tested by Twin Threats from Nature via SF Chronicle with Bloomberg

(Updates with off-site power restored at nuclear power plant in third paragraph.)

Aug. 24 (Bloomberg) — U.S. nuclear plants face the first post-Fukushima test of their ability to withstand multiple natural disasters as Hurricane Irene bears down on an area shaken by a 5.8-magnitude earthquake.

The temblor yesterday knocked out power to Dominion Resources Inc.’s North Anna nuclear plant in Virginia and prompted 12 stations from North Carolina to Michigan to declare “unusual events,” the lowest-level emergency designated by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Off-site power was later restored to North Anna, eliminating the need for back-up generators for cooling, the company said late yesterday. The plant’s twin reactors halted automatically during the quake, whose epicenter was less than 15 miles (24 kilometers) from the plant, about 85 miles southwest of Washington, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

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Hurricane Irene Expected

As East Coast nuclear operators recover from the earthquake, they’re reviewing emergency plans in advance of Hurricane Irene’s expected arrival later this week. The storm’s current track set by the National Hurricane Center estimates Irene will go ashore in North Carolina on Aug. 27 before moving up the East Coast, possibly threatening New York and New England.

The double threat from the earthquake and hurricane is providing a test of the U.S. nuclear industry’s disaster preparation at a time when regulators and industry operators are studying the lessons of the disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Dai- Ichi plant.

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