The flooding of Nebraska’s nuclear power plants: Fort Calhoun and Cooper Nuclear Station

 This morning, The Omaha World Herald reports there’s absolutely nothing to worry about with the flooding and the two nuclear reactors. Why is anyone worried? Don’t worry!

Tim Burke, vice president at Omaha Public Power District, said the plant’s flood barriers are being built to a level that will protect against rain and the release of record amounts of water from upstream dams on the Missouri River.

“We don’t see any concerns around the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station,” Burke said at a briefing in Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle’s office.

The nuclear plant, 20 miles north of Omaha, was shut down April 9 for refueling. It has not been restarted because of the imminent flooding.

Cooper Nuclear Station, which is about 70 miles south of Omaha near Brownville, Neb., continues to operate even as it makes similar flood protections. Cooper is owned by Nebraska Public Power District. The river would have to rise about 6 feet higher for the plant to go into a cold shutdown.

[...] However, other problems at the plant and some of the flood precautions themselves have unnerved people:

>>A fire at the outset of flooding temporarily disrupted power to the spent fuel pool.

>>The nuclear station shifted to an alert status.

>>Flights over the plant have been restricted.

>>Fort Calhoun was and continues to be one of the NRC’s most tightly monitored plants because of problems it had before the flooding.

Dricks said the NRC has taken the unusual step of sending more inspectors and a branch chief to Fort Calhoun. A branch chief is a top regional regulator. In this case, it’s the individual responsible for overseeing Fort Calhoun inspections and compliance.

Also, OPPD is bringing in additional boats, food and water for employees, which is not a cause for alarm, Dricks said. “It’s called prudence.”

[...] Elizabeth Ishan Cory, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration, said the flight restrictions at Fort Calhoun are intended to keep curiosity seekers out of the immediate vicinity. Planes can still fly near the plant if they have flight plans and are in contact with air traffic controllers. Smaller aircraft are restricted in how close they can get to the plant.

Otherwise, there’s a risk of midair collisions that could jeopardize operations on the ground. “When you keep the area above the ground safe, you’re going to keep the people on the ground safe, too,” Cory said.

John Remus of the Corps of Engineers said the river level at Fort Calhoun had yet to reflect the full release of water from Gavins Point Dam.

Note that Cooper Nuclear Plant is located in Brownville, NE and, like Fort Calhoun, happens to also be under an FAA Temporary Flight Restriction until further notice:

06/07/2011 1/6704 ZMP NE HAZARDS BROWNVILLE., NE zoom to 1/6704

Via DBKP: On June 14, 2011, the report Cooper Nuke Plant Will Get More NRC Oversight:

NRC inspectors said some of the station’s procedures for manually operating valves – which are part of system for releasing coolants under high pressure – wouldn’t work in the event of a fire. The independent emergency cooling system is one means available to provide water to cool the reactor in case of an emergency.

“Fire protection programs are a critical component in plant safety and the NRC is paying special attention to ensure [Cooper] takes actions to fully correct this issue,” according to Region IV Administrator Elmo E. Collins.

According to an informative post at the site The People’s Voice, the Ft. Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant and the Cooper Nuclear station are ‘partially submerged’ by Missouri floodwaters.

Below: The Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station from the air Thursday [6/16/11]. OPPD was putting the finishing touches on federally ordered flood-defense improvements before flooding began. MATT MILLER/THE WORLD-HERALD
Enlarged photo

Here are the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s EVENT NOTIFICATION REPORTS  for June/2011 at Fort Calhoun or Cooper Nuclear Plant:

  • 08 June 2011 | Fort Calhoun Event 46932: ALERT declared due to fire in switchgear room. Alert exited later in the day. Fort Calhoun remains in Unusual Event HU 1, EAL 5 for River Level greater than 1004′ elevation as reported under EN #46929.

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11 thoughts on “The flooding of Nebraska’s nuclear power plants: Fort Calhoun and Cooper Nuclear Station

  1. Pingback: What’s happening at the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant? (19 miles north of Omaha, NE) | Under the Mountain Bunker

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  4. Pingback: Update: NOUE declared for Cooper Nuclear Station near Brownsville, NE | Under the Mountain Bunker

  5. Pingback: ON THE MEDIA FAILURE of reporting the status of Nebraska’s nuclear plants and the flood | Under the Mountain Bunker

  6. Pingback: NRC Weekend Event Reports from Cooper Nuclear Station: Nebraska flooding | Under the Mountain Bunker

  7. In 1993 the Cooper plant was the focus by the NRC in their report on the danger of hazards to facilities. The subject heading: Flooding. What happens when electricity is cut off from cooling rods? Meltdown?! Well, fire was present in Japan, too.

  8. Pingback: Missouri River flooding: 1-29 closures (near both of Nebraska’s nuclear plants) | Under the Mountain Bunker

  9. Pingback: Cooper Nuclear Station (Nebraska): reactor will shut down if river rises two feet more | Under the Mountain Bunker

  10. Pingback: VAhanus Blog | It's the end of the world as we know it….

  11. Pingback: Missouri River flooding update: Fort Calhoun and Cooper Nuclear Station | Under the Mountain Bunker

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