- The Washington Times - Monday, November 19, 2001

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Nuclear power plants have been generating more than electricity since the September 11 strikes have left some neighbors worrying they could become the next victims of a terrorist attack.
Virginia has two nuclear plants in Louisa and Surry counties. Nearby residents wonder what would happen if their nuclear neighbors became the next target.
Rita Steele's 16-year-old grandson recently offered to build her an underground fallout shelter.
"Before, he would have never thought about it," said Mrs. Steele, 50, who owns a shop in Mineral near the Louisa plant. "Now, it even affects the kids, because they hear so much about it. It's scary."
Arms folded over a T-shirt that says, "Wherever I go, God goes with me," Mrs. Steele said she has not given a lot of thought to what she would do, except get in a car and drive. She worries that radiation would spread too fast anyway.
"I'd probably try to get my nine dogs into the car. We probably wouldn't make it," she said.
Her neighbors are suddenly paying attention to calendars mailed out by Dominion Virginia Power, the company that owns the plant, that include detailed instructions on what to do in a crisis. The calendar lists evacuation centers, school evacuation procedures, escape routes and placards that residents can prop in their windows to show that they have left their home or need assistance to leave.
"I've been reading that, too, and this is the first year I've ever paid attention," said Pat Martin, who runs the Country Roads Cafe in Mineral, about 100 miles from the Washington Monument.
On the shore of man-made Lake Anna, the North Anna plant has a capacity of 1,842 megawatts enough electricity to light a city the size of Albuquerque. The Surry nuclear power plant, with a 1,625-megawatt capacity, is on the James River across from historic Jamestown. Both are operated by Richmond-based Dominion, which serves more than 2 million customers in Virginia and North Carolina.
There are 103 commercial nuclear power plants operating in 31 states. The day of the attacks on New York and the Pentagon, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission urged all to go to Level III, its highest security level.
The NRC also assured the public that nuclear power plants are built to withstand extreme events such as hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes. But in a Sept. 21 news release, the agency also acknowledged that it had not contemplated attacks by airliners as big as the ones that slammed into the twin towers.
Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III directed the National Guard and state police to defend both nuclear plants. The Marine Resources Commission and the Game and Inland Fisheries Department are guarding waterways around the plants.
Dominion intensified security before the NRC asked, said spokesman Richard Zuercher. Officials have conducted additional background checks on some employees, stopped media visits and public tours.
But the plants, ringed by razor wire, concrete barriers to thwart truck bombs and armed security guards, were safe even before September 11, Mr. Zuercher said.
The reactors and their cooling systems are below ground and encased in hardened structures, including a three-eighth-inch carbon steel liner. The domes whose shape is intended to minimize the impact from an aircraft crash are 21/2- to 3-foot-thick concrete reinforced with eight layers of steel bars.
For many neighbors, worry is an acceptable trade-off for facilities that provide more jobs than any other local business and pay at least 20 percent of the county's taxes. Others are simply fatalistic.
"If it blows up, it blows up," said Joseph Boggs Sr., whose home sits about a half-mile across Lake Anna from the plant.


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