Anti-nuclear activists turned Virginia Electric & Power Co.'s annual meeting into a debate over nuclear power today and demanded that the company abandon all of its atomic plants.
Likening Vepco's nuclear plants to the Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania, the critics urged Vepco to hold meltdown drills twice a year for persons who live near the company's two nuclear plant sites and send evacuation maps to all customers along with their monthly bill.
Vepco President Stanley Ragone defended the company's nuclear safety record and warned, "This country is going to be absolutely energy bankrupt if you don't have nuclear power."
Vepco Chairman T. Justin Moore, Jr. added: "It's whistling in the dark, and I mean the dark, to think of giving up the 13 percent of our energy in this country that comes from nuclear power."
A write-in slate of utility critics was nominated for Vepco's board of directors, but drew only 3,000 votes from the 64 million shares of stock.
But the informal balloting appeared to be illegal anyway. Under Securities and Exchange Commission rules, stockholders must be notified in advance of issues to come up at the meeting.
But Vepco executives played out the charade, giving the critics ballots for their write-in candidates and hastily drafted resolutions. The company gave the protestors half an hour to address shareholders.
Others present booed loudly when an hour of debate was demanded by Fred Millar of Washington, D.C., a sociology professor and chief spokesman for a group called The Potomac Alliance. Millar described the alliance as "senior citizens, low-income people, minorities, workers, consumers and people who are concerned about safe energy."
"I think we raised serious issues," Millar said after the meeting, complaining that "we were treated with a kind of condescending tolerance."
If the critics' complaints about Vepco's nuclear plants did not get serious attention, their potential for disrupting the shareholders' meeting did.
Six uniformed Richmond policemen-one on horseback-and more than two dozen walkie-talkie-toting men- some wearing Vepco Identification tags-patrolled the plaza outside the company's offices in the new 20-story tower at One James River Plaza.
Nuclear activists have in the past threatened to occupy one of Vepco's plants, and the company imposed tight security on the meeting. Searching through a reporters' shoulder bag, a security guard commented, "we can't let in any cameras."
Although newspaper photographers and television crews were not allowed in the meeting, Vepco videotaped the entire season.
Anticipating criticism of the company's heavy commitment to nuclear power, Ragone and Moore said Vepco and other utilities will have to build more atomic plants to supply future energy needs.
Complaining that critics have tied up construction of new nuclear plants, Moore said, "it should be an embarassment to all Americans that it takes 10 or 12 years to complete a nuclear plant in this country."
Moore defended the safety records of both Vepco and the industry, saying the Three mile Island incident "is probably the worst problem that has occurred (and) it still shows that the safety record of nuclear power is outstanding."
Ragone said Vepco's fourth nuclear plant, called North Anna 2, is expected to be ready for service this summer but also reported that the third and fourth nuclear units planned for that site have been delayed until 1986 and 1987. The latest timetable, critics noted, make the plants the most-delayed in the nuclear industry.
All three of Vepco's operating atomic plants-North Anna 1 and Surry 1 and 2-are now shut down for repairs and inspection.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently shut down the Surry plants, saying it had discovered the computer program for designing some cooling pipes had a mistake in it and the pipes might be too small to withstand earthquake.
Ragone said a consultant's study of that plant will be completed by the end of June and so far indicates no trouble.
The Vepco president said Stone & Webster, the engineering company that designed the plants has been notified that Vepco will expect it to pay for any repairs that are needed.
Millar described the Surry plant as "the third dirtiest in the nation to work in" and said workers there get three times the yearly dose of radiation of the average atomic plant employe.
In a statement distributed to shareholders, the critics' coalition blamed Vepco's nuclear plants for the company's financial difficulties, including a low price for Vepco shares and high rates on the company's borrowings.
"Some of us aren't rich and we don't like holding stock in a company that rich people don't have confidence in," said the literature. The critics said some of them bought stock just so they could attend the meetings.
After all the criticism of Vepco's management, most shareholders rallied around the company, offering little criticism of executives and asking few questions for a company whose earnings are going down.
Moore reported Vepco's common stock earnings per share for the 12 months ended March 31 fell from $2 to $1.77 and as a result there will be no immediate increase in Vepco's dividend.
Ragone said the company has again scaled down its forecast of future electrical needs, Peak summer power demand will grow only 4.3 percent per year, rather than the 5.3 percent previously anticipated, he said. CAPTION: Picture, Men identified as Vepco security officers (top) watch as anti-nuclear material is discussed outside annual meeting, which was closed to photographers. AP