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North Anna Power Station celebrates 35 years

Posted on Monday, January 13, 2014 at 9:00 am

Page Kemp, Dominion Virginia Power supervisor of licensing, explains that Unit 1 has been in use 35 years.

Page Kemp, Dominion Virginia Power supervisor of licensing, explains that Unit 1 has been in use 35 years.

When Dominion Virginia Power Supervisor of Licensing Page Kemp first started working on the site of the North Anna Power Station in 1974, the rising structure of Unit 1 was still four years away from completion and an aura of skepticism and fear pulsated through the public’s perception.

Flash forward 40 years, and you’ll find a plant that is celebrating its 35th year of operation. Since Unit 1’s opening in June of 1978 – Unit 2 followed in December of 1980 – the North Anna Power Station has become one of Louisa’s premier economic players, and officials are successfully continuing to fight the long-lasting stigma associated with nuclear energy.

“Now, a majority of people that you go out to talk to are very supportive of the power station, what we do for the community and the impact we have on the community,” Kemp said. “We work very hard to maintain that.”

Kemp speaks as he walks through the station’s welcome and information center. Filled with interactive kiosks and simplified information, the center serves as the station’s first line of defense in dealing with skeptics. It also allows the station to go on the offensive as well, giving tours and handling the questions of curious onlookers who drop by.

“Especially for new people moving to the lake, they’ll come here because they’ve heard about the plant or have concerns and we can talk to them and answer their questions,” Dominion’s Manager of Nuclear Fleet Communications Richard Zuercher said. “Generally, people get their questions answered and feel a lot better about it.”

But it’s when you venture through the many security checkpoints and inspect the many cogs that form the machine that one truly sees why the plant is currently at it’s most productive level ever. Since the earthquake of 2011, the company’s already-stingy protocol has become even more enforced, resulting in increased productivity.

“When I first started, for the plant to operate for 30 days was rare because of breaking components and various mistakes,” Kemp said. “Now we focus on our performance and fixing things right the first time. Now the plant runs for 18 months without having to shut down.”

According to statistics from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, NAPS and its five sister plants finished with a combined work capacity factor of 93.7 percent, a level that is extremely impressive in the industry. It’s the highest mark in the plant’s history, and it testifies to Kemp’s claim that the plant is now as “efficient as it has ever been.”

Kemp and Zuercher both believe that the increase in performance is directly correlated to the increased security and training measures that have been enforced at the plant. Standard procedures include thorough and repetitive testing of all company employees regardless of tenure.

To read the entire story, see the Nov. 9 edition of The Central Virginian.