Checking in on Fort Calhoun, Cooper Nuclear Station and Los Alamos

THERE IS NO ‘NEW‘ NEWS FROM EITHER NEBRASKA NUCLEAR PLANT next to the flooded Missouri River. There have been no new event notifications to the NRC in the last week. River gauge readings for both Fort Calhoun (Blair) and Cooper (Brownsville) are well below the “major” flood stage and should continue to drop. Cooper remains on line, running at 100 percent while Fort Calhoun remains shutdown. This situation is likely to last through August.

Missouri River near Blair

Missouri River at Brownville

LOS ALAMOS: 12,000 RESIDENTS RETURNED HOME on Sunday when the evacuation order was lifted. And yesterday the Los Alamos National Laboratory reopened and its employees returned to work. The residents have two new problems though:  the fires chased lots of wildlife into the town, including black bears.

Romp: Brown bears have invaded deserted Los Alamos and as residents return home they are being warned about their new guests
Romp: Brown bears have invaded deserted Los Alamos and as residents return home they are being warned about their new guests

Additionally, New Mexico’s monsoon season is set to begin, now with an even greater potential for flash flooding:

The risk to flooding has been aggravated by the raging wildfire which has burned off trees, ground-hugging grasses and vegetation, raising concerns that any run-off will barrel down canyons unchecked, causing creeks to burst their banks.

Fires, bear invasions, and floods: worst summer ever!

Fire inside protected area and injured worker at Fort Calhoun nuclear plant

Event Number: 47001 | Date: 6/30/2011

OFFSITE NOTIFICATION DUE TO PERSON BEING EVACUATED

“At 1423 CDT, the Control Room was notified of a fire inside the protected area isolated to a portable water evacuation pump. At 1425 CDT, the Control Room was notified the fire was extinguished and the presence of an injured person; the Control Room immediately notified Washington County 911 to request emergency medical assistance. At 1511 CDT, injured person was transferred off-site by medical helicopter.

“This four-hour notification is being made pursuant to 10 CFR 50.72(b)(2)(xi), event or situation related to health and safety of on-site personnel for which notification to other government agencies has been made. NRC Resident informed.

“Due to this event, 1/2 gallon of gasoline was discharged to the Missouri River. The spill was reported to the State of Nebraska on 6/30/2011.

“This condition is also being reported pursuant to 10 CFR 50.72(b)(2)(xi) for News Release or Notification of Other Government Agency. Applicable state agencies have been notified per plant procedures.”

The injured person is a plant employee and was injured while refueling a portable generator. The injured person suffered burns to the forearms and neck. The licensee intends to issue a press release.

The NRC Resident Inspector has been notified.

Here’s the press release from the Omaha World-Herald: Fire injury: A worker refilling the gas tank of a portable pump at the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station was burned Thursday after the tank caught fire. He was taken by medical helicopter to a Lincoln hospital for treatment of arm and facial burns. The employee was injured as he used an extinguisher to put out the fire, said Jeff Hanson, a spokesman for the Omaha Public Power District. The portable pump was outside the security building — surrounded by sandbags to keep floodwaters away — but the building is not part of the power facility. The pumps are used to remove water that seeps under the barrier. Hanson said the Fort Calhoun plant was not endangered in the incident. The worker was not identified, so that relatives could be notified.

Image of Fort Calhoun collected 6/28/11 by DigitalGlobe (click to enlarge):
http://www.digitalglobe.com/downloads/featured_images/us_fortcalhoun_npp_june28_2011_dg.jpg

Image: DigitalGlobe

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Flooding at Fort Calhoun: Water surrounds reactor building, spend fuel pool building

Flood tests not over for nuke plant:

Because of the collapsed water-filled dam, river water surrounds the main reactor building, mechanical building, spent fuel pool building and other structures.

Barriers at entrances to the buildings are keeping that water from entering, Hanson said. A “minor” amount of water did seep into the plant’s turbine building, he said, and was pumped out.

The buildings themselves and associated pumps and electrical equipment are designed to handle flooding up to 1,014 feet above sea level. The river is a little over 1,006 feet now and is forecast to reach a crest of 1,008 feet, barring extraordinary rains.

What if the river keeps rising? Read more…

Meanwhile, Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko offered support for both utilities after visiting the plants. He said both Fort Calhoun and Cooper remain safe.

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NRC issues press release regarding Fort Calhoun’s berm collapse

NRC issues press release on Fort Calhoun’s berm failure (PDF doc):

06/26/2011 IV-11-031

NRC Activates Incident Response Center for Tracking Events at the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant

The collapse of the berm also allowed floodwaters to surround the main electrical transformers. Operators transferred power from offsite sources to the emergency diesel generators as a precautionary measure due to water leakage around the concrete berm surrounding the main transformers. Efforts are underway to reconnect to offsite power once all safety checks have been completed.

NRC inspectors were onsite at the time and responded to the event. They have verified that reactor shutdown cooling and spent fuel pool cooling remain unaffected. NRC augmented its resident inspection staff on June 6, to provide around the clock coverage of site activities. The plant has been shutdown since April 7 for a refueling outage.

In response to the event, the NRC has activated its Incident Response Center from which it is monitoring events. NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko plans to visit the site tomorrow.

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Fort Calhoun: nuclear material being cooled by backup generators after berm collapse

After the 2,000 foot berm which collapsed on Sunday at the Fort Calhoun nuclear plant — from ABC News:

The breach allowed Missouri River flood waters to reach containment buildings and transformers and forcing the shutdown of electrical power.

Backup generators are cooling the nuclear material at the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station.

The plant has not operated since April, and officials say there is no danger to the public.

The berm is the Aquadam, the huge inner-tube structure which was surrounding the plant. The WSJ reports electricity was restored, but I don’t see that reported anywhere else. NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko is scheduled to visit the plant today:

The berm’s collapse allowed floodwaters to wash around the main electrical transformers. As a result, emergency diesel power generators were started. Later in the day, power was restored.

The NRC’s Mr. Dricks said temperature monitors were working properly and temperatures of key parts of the nuclear power plant were normal. Water has not seeped into any of the containment structures, he said.

Two NOUEs were submitted to the NRC:

46988: BOTH EMERGENCY DIESEL GENERATORS SUPPLYING PLANT EMERGENCY BUSES PER PLANT PROCEDURE

“At approximately 0125 [hrs. CDT], the AquaDam providing enhanced flood protection for FCS [Ft. Calhoun Station] Unit 1 failed. At 0221, as a precautionary measure, DG-2 [Diesel Generator] was automatically started per plant procedure to divorce bus 1A4 from offsite power. At 0250, DG-1 was automatically started to divorce bus 1A3. Both Emergency Diesel Generators loaded on buses as designed. 345KV and 161KV offsite power remain available.

“This is reportable pursuant to 10CFR50.72(b)(3)(iv)(A), ‘System Actuation of the Emergency Diesel Generators’. All safety related flood protection barriers remain in place.

“Current river level is 1006.5′ MSL and stable. FCS remains in a NOUE [Notification of Unusual Event] due to high river level.

46989: OFFSITE NOTIFICATION DUE TO PETROLEUM RELEASE TO THE MISSOURI RIVER

“At approximately 0125 CDT, the AquaDam providing enhanced flood protection for Fort Calhoun Station Unit 1 failed. This resulted in approximately 100 gallons of petroleum being released into the river after a protective barrier was breached and many fuel containers were washed out to the river. The fuel/oil containers were staged around the facility to supply fuel for pumps which remove water within the flood containment barriers. The spill was reported to the State of Nebraska at 10:45 AM CDT on 6/26/2011.

“This condition is being reported pursuant to 10 CFR 50.72(b)(2)(xi) for News Release or Notification of Other Government Agency. Applicable governmental agencies have been notified per plant procedures.”

The licensee notified the NRC Resident Inspector.

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Berm collapse at Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant — NRC says ‘no danger’

Omaha World-Herald:

OMAHA, Neb. — A berm holding back floodwater at a Nebraska nuclear power plant has collapsed.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission says the 2,000-foot berm at the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station collapsed about 1:30 a.m. Sunday.

There is no danger. The plant has been shut down since early April for refueling, and the commission says there’s no water inside.

Also, the Missouri River isn’t expected to rise past the flood level the plant was designed to handle.

The NRC says its inspectors were at the plant when the berm failed and have confirmed that the flooding has had no impact on the reactor shutdown cooling or the spent fuel pool cooling. NRC spokesman Victor Dricks says the plant remains safe.

NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko will visit the plant Monday.

Except on 23 JUNE 2011 the report was:NRC on Fort Calhoun: “there is now two feet of water in many areas onsite.”

UPDATE: 27 JUNEFort Calhoun: nuclear material being cooled by backup generators after berm collapse

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Saturday morning: Missouri River levels near Fort Calhoun and Cooper Nuclear Station

It’s a good thing that levee failed yesterday below Brownville (well,except for the people who had to evacuate in Atchison County). Had it not failed, the Cooper Nuclear Station was inches away from shut down — even without the release of more water upstream from the Gavins Point Dam by the Army Corps. It’s interesting that the NRC chairman is touring both Cooper and Fort Calhoun tomorrow and Monday.

25 June 2011: Flood stage at Brownville (location of Cooper Nuclear Station) after levee failure in northwest Missouri:

Missouri River at Brownville

24 June 2011: Levee break offers brief reprieve for Nebraska nuke plant

The failure of a Missouri River levee in northwest Missouri is offering a brief reprieve from flooding for southeast Nebraska near the Cooper nuclear power plant.

The National Weather Service says the river level dropped more than a foot at Brownville to 43.1 feet Friday morning after Thursday’s levee breach upstream in northwest Missouri.

Before the breach, the river had been 44.8-feet-deep at Brownville on Thursday. The weather service predicts the river to return to that depth over the weekend.

The Nebraska Public Power District owns the nuclear power plant. The river would have to rise to 46.5 feet before reaching Cooper, but the plant would be shut down as a precaution if the river reached 45.5 feet.

25 June 2011: Flood state at Blair (location near Fort Calhoun Nuclear Plant):

Missouri River near Blair

NRC chairman to tour both Neb. nuclear plants

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) _ The chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will visit Nebraska’s two nuclear power plants to check out the measures they’ve taken to battle flooding along the Missouri River. The commission says Gregory Jaczko will visit Cooper nuclear power plant near Brownville on Sunday, and then tour Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant near Blair on Monday. He will also take a helicopter tour of flooding on the river. Fort Calhoun remains shut down because of concern about floodwaters, but a series of barriers have stopped the water’s advance. It is run by the Omaha Public Power District. Cooper continues to operate at full capacity, but the Nebraska Public Power District is monitoring the river closely. Previously, NRC officials have said both utilities have taken appropriate measures to protect the power plants.

Jaczko is scheduled to hold a news conference Monday afternoon in Omaha.

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UPDATED: Levee failure near Brownsville — no threat to Cooper Nuclear Station

Omaha World-Herald reports:

A Missouri River levee three miles north of Brownville, Neb., failed Thursday night, triggering evacuations in Atchison County, Mo.

According to early assessments, the breach posed no threat to the Cooper Nuclear Station near Brownville.

Missouri River at Brownville

Flash Flood Warning

UPDATE 8:00 AM MST ******

Or you could look at this another way:

Levee break offers brief reprieve for Nebraska nuke plant

The failure of a Missouri River levee in northwest Missouri is offering a brief reprieve from flooding for southeast Nebraska near the Cooper nuclear power plant.

The National Weather Service says the river level dropped more than a foot at Brownville to 43.1 feet Friday morning after Thursday’s levee breach upstream in northwest Missouri.

Before the breach, the river had been 44.8-feet-deep at Brownville on Thursday. The weather service predicts the river to return to that depth over the weekend.

The Nebraska Public Power District owns the nuclear power plant. The river would have to rise to 46.5 feet before reaching Cooper, but the plant would be shut down as a precaution if the river reached 45.5 feet.

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Maddow Blog: What’s scary (and not) about Nebraska’s nuke plants

The Maddow Blog comments on the ZOMG! JUST LIKE FUKUSHIMA!! Media Blackout ordered by the New World Order!!!-style blogging that’s currently flying around on the interwebs about Nebraska’s nuclear plants:

No, there was NOT a near nuclear meltdown in Nebraska on June 7. And no, there’s been NO radiation leak from Fort Calhoun Station, pictured notably above. The Lincoln Journal-Star today runs down the myths and rumors about Nebraska’s two nuclear plants at risk of flooding by the Missouri River — it’s well worth reading.

The Journal-Star also asks the two utilities involved what would happen in a worst-case scenario and gets not much of an answer.

Q: What is the likelihood that radioactive particles could enter the water or atmosphere from an accident caused by floodwaters?

OPPD: The fuel is safe and secure.

NPPD: Again, extremely unlikely. Cooper has physical and equipment barriers in place that would prevent any radioactivity from entering the water, the first of which is preventing the water from entering the building.

Q: If floodwaters do inundate Fort Calhoun, what is the risk to people living in the surrounding area?

OPPD: We feel that the plant is secure. The risk to the surrounding area will be provided by the flood, not our plant.

NPPD: We are taking the proactive and precautionary steps to minimize any risk.

In essence, don’t worry about what could happen because nothing will happen. Got it?

THAT’S scary — not the fiction and conspiracy theories.

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NRC on Fort Calhoun: “there is now two feet of water in many areas onsite.”

The NRC has augmented its inspection staff at Fort Calhoun where there is now two feet of water in many areas onsite. In addition to the two resident inspectors, three more inspectors and a branch chief are there to provide around the clock coverage of licensee activities.

[...] An earthern berm protects the electrical switchyard and a concrete barrier has been built around electrical transformers to protect them. Satellite phones have been distributed to key workers. Extra food and water has been stockpiled.

Existing diesel fuel tanks have been topped off and two additional fuel tanks have been brought onsite. Special gas-fired pumps are available in the event of station blackout. If there is a complete loss of power on site the pumps can circulate cooling water through the spent fuel pool and reactor core.

NRC Blog: The Rising River Puts Flood Preparations to the Test

They report that “The plant has erected an Aquadam around the powerblock…The water-filled berm is eight feet tall and 16 feet wide at the base, and provides protection for up to six feet of water,” and discuss how the Aquadam is protecting the plant and vital equipment.

So why is there two feet of water in many areas of the plant then? Is it coming in another way, like through drains? Because there was a Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s EVENT NOTIFICATION REPORT last Friday at Fort Calhoun:

ADDITIONAL PENETRATION IDENTIFIED FOR MITIGATION DURING WALKDOWN

“Operations identified a potential flooding issue in the Intake Structure 1007 ft. 6 in. level. The area of concern is a the hole in the floor at the 1007 ft. 6 in. level where the relief valve from FP-1A discharge pipe goes through the raw pump bay and discharges into the intake cell. There is one penetration of concern. Flooding through this penetration could have impacted the ability of the station’s Raw Water (RW) pumps to perform their design accident mitigation functions.

“Efforts are in progress to seal the penetration.

“This eight-hour notification is being made pursuant to 10 CFR 50.72 (b)(3)(v).”

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Thursday morning: Missouri River flooding and Nebraska’s nuclear plants

News reports this morning — something to keep in mind is that Cooper Nuclear Station is  larger than Fort Calhoun. This CNN article below gives us some detail as to the situations of both plants: Cooper has about 60 employees sleeping on cots to be onsite around the clock, and some areas of the Fort Calhoun plant are already under 2 feet of water.

23 JUNE 2011: CNN The Cooper Nuclear Station, which is currently operating at full power and the Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant are [both] under an “unusual event declaration” by the NRC.

Cooper, according to the statement, “sits two and a half feet above current river levels.”

Nebraska utility officials have erected barriers to protect buildings at the plant from flooding and have installed a berm around the facility’s electrical switchyard.

However, CNN affiliate KETV reported Wednesday that, as a precautionary move, the facility is keeping dozens of staff members onsite around the clock. The station reported that about 60 people are sleeping on cots at the plant and that the staffers are being rotated out every two days.

The NRC has sent more inspectors to Fort Calhoun where many areas of the plant are under two feet of water, according to the statement. Plant operators there have also erected berms around buildings and the electrical switchyard, as well as a concrete barrier around transformers.

Current river levels near Nebraska’s nuclear plants (BEFORE the impact of Gavins Point) are as follows:

  • The river level at Blair (Fort Calhoun plant area) is slightly under 32.5 feet. The Fort Calhoun plant is already closed, but as that CNN article noted above, areas of the plant are already under 2 feet of water. The NOAA notes that at 33.5 feet at this location, there would be ‘significant’ flooding from Blair to Fort Calhoun.

National Weather Service advisories:

THE FLOOD WARNING CONTINUES FOR
  THE MISSOURI RIVER NEAR BLAIR.
* AT  2:01 AM THURSDAY THE STAGE WAS 32.4 FEET.
* FLOOD STAGE IS 26.5 FEET.
* MODERATE FLOODING IS OCCURRING AND MODERATE FLOODING IS FORECAST.
* FORECAST...THE RIVER WILL CONTINUE RISING TO NEAR 32.5 FEET BY THIS
  MORNING.  ADDITIONAL RISES MAY BE POSSIBLE THEREAFTER.
* IMPACT...AT 30.0 FEET...FLOODWATERS WILL IMPACT I-29 IN AREAS NORTH
  OF THE CRESCENT AND I-680 INTERCHANGE.
THE FLOOD WARNING CONTINUES FOR
  THE MISSOURI RIVER AT BROWNVILLE.
* AT  2:00 AM THURSDAY THE STAGE WAS 44.7 FEET.
* FLOOD STAGE IS 33.0 FEET.
* RECORD FLOODING IS OCCURRING AND RECORD FLOODING IS FORECAST.
* FORECAST...THE RIVER WILL CONTINUE TO FALL TO A STAGE OF 44.3 FEET
  BY TOMORROW MORNING BUT ADDITIONAL RISES ARE POSSIBLE THEREAFTER.
* IMPACT...AT 44.0 FEET...WATER NEARS THE TOP OF THE FEDERAL LEVEES
  ON BOTH SIDES OF THE RIVER.

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Cooper Nuclear Station: Brownville currently listed on NOAA.gov map as “major flooding”

From NOAA.gov — Missouri River level at Brownville:

Flood Categories (in feet)

Major Flood Stage: 43
Moderate Flood Stage: 37
Flood Stage: 33
Action Stage: 31.5

As of 8:30 AM this morning, the Missouri River was at 44.5 ft. at Brownville, which is already above its historical crest of 44.3 feet set in 1993. When/if it reaches 45.5 ft, the Cooper Nuclear Station will shut down — 12 inches.

It looks like they’re forecasting the level to drop — I wonder if that takes into account the Army Corps’ plan to release more water from the Gavins Point Dam today?

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Report: 48 of 65 U.S. nuclear stations leaked radioactive tritium

“The public health and safety impact of this is next to zero. This is a public confidence issue.” — Nuclear Energy Institute’s Tony Pietrangelo

“Radiation is actually good for you.” — Nuclear physicist and part-time brain surgeon Ann Coulter

Report: 75% of U.S. nukes sites leaked radioactive tritium

The Associated Press found that 48 of the 65 power stations in the U.S. had reported leaking tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen.

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) records blamed many of the leaks on corroded buried piping. At 37 of the sites, contamination to groundwater exceeded the federal drinking water standard.

While no public water supplies are known to have been contaminated, the leaks did reach the wells of homes in Illinois and Minnesota. In New Jersey, tritium was found in a discharge canal feeding Barnegat Bay… In 2007, cesium-137 was found along with tritium at the Fort Calhoun plant near Omaha, Nebraska. The Indian Point nuclear site near New York City was found to have leaked Strontium-90 two years before that.

And the problem is growing — as the AP notes:

The number and severity of the leaks has been escalating, even as federal regulators extend the licenses of more and more reactors across the nation.

List of Power Reactor Units

U.S. Commercial Nuclear Power Reactors - Years of Operation

I’m glad to see that Colorado doesn’t have a nuclear reactor.

Nebraska’s nuclear plants: Army Corps set to release more water from Gavins Point Dam

File:Gavins-record.jpg

Gavins Point Dam releases 150,000 cubic feet per second of water June 14, 2011, a record that more than doubles the previous high release. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo by Jay Woods)

Army Corps To Release More Water From Gavins Point

The Army Corps of Engineers said it is set to release 1.2 million gallons of water from the dam in South Dakota.

The impact could add up to a half-foot of water as the Missouri River moves downstream. The river is currently 34.5 feet deep in Omaha. That’s almost six feet above flood stage.

The Army Corps said it expects to release about 160,000 cubic feet of water per second from the dam. That is a surprise to some who thought the highest the corps would go was 150,000 cubic feet per second.

In a statement released Tuesday, corps Brig. Gen. John McMahon said, “We thought we would be able to hold at 150,000 CFS for an extended period of time. Unfortunately, recent rains have reduced our flexibility, and we must evacuate these floodwaters to manage the remaining flood control storage in the reservoir system. As we’ve stated all along, heavy rain storms could result in major revisions.”

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12:00 PM: Missouri River reaches major flood stage at Nebraska City, NE

Nebraska City is between the two nuclear plants. It’s over 60 miles south of Fort Calhoun and about 30 miles north of the Cooper Nuclear Plant.

Missouri River reaches major flood stage

Nebraska City, Neb. — According to the National Weather Service, the Missouri River at Nebraska City reached 27.06 feet as of 12 p.m. on June 21. Until now the Missouri River has been in a moderate flood stage. The current level puts the river at a major flood stage. The record level is listed at 27.2 feet. The forecast for the river shows a prediction of 27.3 feet at around midnight. Flood stage is 18 feet.