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Dominion making repairs to North Anna pipe leak

Monday - 3/26/2012, 1:23pm  ET

LOUISA, Va. - Dominion Virginia Power is repairing a leak in a steam generator pipe at its North Anna Nuclear Power Station in central Virginia but the company and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission say it doesn't pose any public threat.

The state's largest electric utility said Monday that workers doing repairs to one of the plant's reactors over the weekend noted a small amount of water seeping through a weld in a pipe. The work was being performed as part of the scheduled refueling process for the reactor.

Workers were upgrading three connections or welds between some of the steam generator pipes that are known to wear down over time due to heat and stress, said Dominion spokesman Richard Zuercher.

Workers had to first remove the previous metal welding to make the upgrades. They had ground the pipe down about one inch before noticing the water seepage.

Dominion reported the issue to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which, according to its nuclear event database, deemed the leak a "non-emergency."

"If there were a real threat that could affect the public, that puts you in the emergency plan, and that's a whole different ballgame," Zuercher said.

The federal agency said it is evaluating the issue but doesn't consider it an environmental concern because it was within the safety containment area and the unit was not in operation.

Dominion also said the pipe leak was not related to last year's 5.8-magnitude earthquake. The plant's two nuclear reactors automatically shut down when the quake caused peak ground movement about twice the level for which it was designed.

Multiple inspections show the plant about 11 miles from the earthquake's epicenter didn't suffer any functional damage during the temblor. Federal regulators gave the company the go-ahead to restart the reactors on Nov. 11.

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