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Response to ‘attack’ on reactor is praised

RICHMOND—The response to a mock terrorist attack on Louisa County’s North Anna Power Station, the first of its kind in Virginia, was deemed a success at a briefing Friday.

State and federal officials presented only basic details of the exercise, conducted Tuesday, and said a final report will be released in three months.

The simulated attack is part of a new training program for nuclear stations started in 2013.

Other mock attacks have been conducted at a handful of the nation’s 62 nuclear power plants. Most of the stations are east of the Mississippi. Virginia has two nuclear stations—North Anna, which has two reactors, and another station with two reactors in Surry.

Tuesday’s attack scenario at North Anna involved Dominion crews, state and federal authorities and police and emergency agencies from Louisa, Spotsylvania, Orange, Caroline and Hanover counties.

Louisa Sheriff’s Maj. Donald Lowe was the incident commander.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission oversaw the operation and will evaluate how emergency and Dominion crews handled the attack and the response, which was the focus of the exercise.

Most of the drill was simulated behind the scenes, but also involved live action, including police and emergency crews who responded to the station. Others worked at a command post at the Waters subdivision, about a mile from North Anna, and at facilities in the Richmond area.

The exercise started early Tuesday morning with the scenario in which a group of armed attackers entered the power station property through a fence, set diversionary fires and entered the facility in an attempt to overtake it.

In the scenario, the Dominion station’s security crew, made up mostly of former police and soldiers, killed the attackers, preventing damage to the nuclear reactors and a possible radiation leak or explosion.

The response to the attack then went into effect.

If the attack had been real, the reactors would have been shut down. The emergency sirens would have sounded in a 10-mile radius around the power plant and emergency alerts would have gone out over radio and television stations. Social media would have been used, too.

There also would have been a press conference held in an effort to get details out to residents.

In such a scenario, the public would be told to avoid going outside, officials said.

Dominion spokesman Richard Zuercher and others said the response was not the same as what would happen in the event of an accidental radiation leak.

“This is a different animal because it’s a crime scene,” he said. “We hope we never have to do this for real.”

All of the officials at the Friday briefing were pleased with the outcome.

“Everything went very well,” NRC official Mark Speck said during the briefing.

Spotsylvania County officials sent out a release saying its emergency crews were given a score of “excellent” by FEMA.

All of the nation’s nuclear power plants have to undergo the attack scenario by the end of 2015.

An exercise is scheduled for the Surry power station in February.

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436