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Earthquake shuts down Virginia nuclear plants

Two nuclear plants automatically shut down yesterday during Virginia’s most powerful earthquake since records began, but the eastern US state’s transport infrastructure is believed to be undamaged.

Power company Dominion Virginia Power (DVP) said both reactors at its North Anna Power Station in Richmond, Virginia, were shut down safely with no reports of damage and said that it safety systems are designed to direct operators to do so in the event of a quake. The station is currently running on power from a diesel generator and crews are working to restore “normal power”. Its newest station, Bear Garden in Buckingham County, also shut down automatically.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) said the Central Virginia Seismic Zone has produced small and moderate earthquakes since at least the 18th century. The previous most intense earthquake on record in this zone was of magnitude 4.8 in 1875, meaning yesterday’s 5.8 magnitude quake is the Central Virginia Seismic Zone’s most severe event on record.

The Virginia Department of Transportation has dispatched inspection teams to assess potential damage to infrastructure across the state, focusing first on bridges and tunnels. Currently, no damage has been confirmed to bridges, tunnels or roads.

Likewise, Pennsylvania Department of Transport (PDOT) bridge inspectors are undertaking precautionary inspections of bridges around the state, beginning with bridges that are longer than 60m and taller than 18m. PDOT deputy secretary for highway administration Scott Christie said: “We have no reason to believe the Virginia earthquake caused major damage to any state roadways or bridges.”

The Delaware state government said there have been no confirmations of serious damage in the state.

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