Quake Prompted Alert, Unusual Events at Nuclear Reactors in Six States

The North Anna plant located close to the epicenter of the Aug. 23 earthquake declared an Alert, the second-lowest of NRC's four emergency classifications, when it lost electricity from the grid.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said its regional offices in King of Prussia, Pa., and Atlanta activated their incident response centers following the 2 p.m. EDT earthquake centered at Mineral, Va., and said nuclear power reactors in six states declared Unusual Events because of it. The Federal Emergency Management Agency's spokesperson, Rachel Racusen, issued a statement soon after the earthquake asking the public to use e-mail or text messages, except in case of emergency, "for the next few hours" because of an overload of cell phone networks.

Residents of eastern states were being advised to prepare for the possible arrival of a major hurricane, Hurricane Irene, when the 5.9 magnitude earthquake occurred.

Racusen said FEMA was in contact and coordination with partners in the National Capital Region and with state partners. There were no early reports of major damage or requests for assistance at the time, she said, and preliminary damage assessments were taking place in all affected states.

"Due to overload of cell phone usage, there are reports of cell phone congestion. We request that members of the public use email or text messages if possible to communicate for the next few hours, except in cases of emergency, so that emergency officials can continue to receive and respond to urgent calls. We encourage everyone in the affected areas to listen to the direction of their local officials."

FEMA sites that offer guidance for hurricanes, earthquakes, and other emergencies include Ready.gov, blog.fema.gov, www.twitter.com/fema, www.facebook.com/fema, and www.youtube.com/fema.

The Alert at the North Anna nuclear power plant in Virginia following the earthquake is the second-lowest of NRC's four emergency classifications. The plant declared it after losing electricity from the grid and relying on on-site diesel generators. The plant's safety systems are operating normally, according to the agency's statement, and plant personnel and NRC resident inspectors were continuing to examine conditions at the plant.

Power 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 of them continued to operate while plant personnel examined their sites, the agency said.

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