North Anna Generating Station

The North Anna Nuclear Generating Station is a two-unit nuclear power plant located on the shore of the artificial body of water, Lake Anna, near Mineral, Virginia. The plant’s two Westinghouse Pressurized Water Reactors, which entered service in 1978 and 1980 and are licensed until 2038 and 2040, respectively. They have a combined installed capacity of 1,790 megawatts. The plant, which was designed by the firm of Stone and Webster, is currently operated by Dominion Generation, an electrical power generation company, and mostly owned by Dominion Virginia Power, a utility subsidiary of Dominion. With a 12% stake, the Old Dominion Electric Company is a minority-owner of the plant.

Currently, Dominion Nuclear North Anna LLC is in the process of applying for a license to add a third reactor and power generation unit to the site. Unit 3 was initially intended to be a General Electric-Hitachi 1,520-megawatt Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor. After being granted an Early Site Permit and applying for a Combined Construction and Operating License with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, however, Dominion and GE-Hitachi failed to come to terms regarding the exact price of the reactor.

After receiving proposals from several reactor manufacturers for the Unit 3 contract, Dominion selected Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ bid to supply an Advanced Pressurized Water Reactor with an installed capacity of 1,700 megawatts. Following this decision, and some public protests, Dominion announced that it would slow the pace of Unit 3’s development until after the NRC had approved its license. This finding is expected to come sometime in 2013. If approved and eventually installed, the new Mitsubishi reactor would effectively double the North Anna Nuclear Generating Station’s electrical power output.

As with all pressurized water reactors, water acts as both a coolant and medium for transferring energy from the reactor to the steam turbines. This need for a steady water supply at the plant’s site necessitated the damming of the nearby North Anna River and the creation of Lake Anna. Though excess water is released back into this reservoir after use by the plant, none of the water released by North Anna is radioactive because pressurized water reactor designs do not bring water used in the turbines into direct contact with the reactor core. Indeed, multiple studies have concluded that the area’s natural fauna is not endangered by plant operations.

Despite the surrounding fauna’s safety from toxic chemicals, employees inside the plant might not be so lucky. As with virtually all industrial plants built in the 1970s and before, this facility likely included the use of asbestos as an insulator against the high amount of heat and electricity generated inside. Although an effective insulator, asbestos’ physical composition of tiny, friable fibers makes it a potential threat when introduced into the body. After introduction, this material can embed in the surround tissue of organs, leading to the development of several lethal conditions, including mesothelioma, which is both incurable and carries a short life expectancy.


United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission


U.S. Energy Information Administration