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Wisconsin nuclear plant on the auction block

CHICAGO (Reuters) - One of America's oldest nuclear power plants is up for sale.

Dominion Resources said on Thursday it wants to sell its Kewaunee Power Station north of Manitowoc, Wisconsin.

The Virginia-based power producer did not say what it expected the plant to fetch in the current marketplace, where the ongoing crisis in Japan has fanned fears of the risks associated with nuclear technology.

Dominion bought the 38-year-old plant in 2005 for $220 million as the first step in what it hoped would be an expansion into the Midwest. But the company was outbid by rivals when other plants in the region came on the auction block.

Its CEO Tom Farrell said Thursday that "without the other units, the strategic rationale to continue to own Kewaunee is diminished, and we believe it is time to pursue a sale."

Kewaunee, located on the shores of Lake Michigan near Door County, a region often referred to as the Cape Cod of the Midwest, was originally licensed in 1973.

Earlier this year, it received a 20-year license renewal from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in February.

Last August, months before the earthquake and tsunami in Japan crippled the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant in Japan, the NRC published a report on the risk posed by earthquakes to the country's 104 nuclear power plants.

The commission said Kewaunee had a 1-in-83,333 chance each year of suffering the kind of seismic-triggered damage to its reactor core that caused the explosion at the Fukushima Dai-ichi and released radioactive contaminants into the atmosphere.

Fifty-six of the 104 nuclear reactors in the United States were ranked at greater risk than Kewaunee for earthquake-related damage to their nuclear cores, according to the NRC, and 47 were deemed at less risk.

(Reporting by James B. Kelleher, Matt Daily, Eileen Moustakis and Eileen O'Grady; Editing by Jerry Norton)

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