With Nebraska’s two nuclear power plants threatened by the raging flood waters of the Missouri River, Nebraska Watchdog has learned that the federal government’s top nuclear official is coming to the state for a firsthand look.
While the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) insists that both the Fort Calhoun plant and the Cooper Nuclear Station at Brownville remain safe, NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko will soon visit the state.
A spokesman for Senator Ben Nelson (NE-D) has confirmed to Nebraska Watchdog that Jaczko is coming, although the details of Jaczko’s visit are apparently still being finalized.
As of Thursday morning the river at Brownville, which is 70 miles from Lincoln and Omaha, had climbed to within a foot and a half from forcing the Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD ) to declare an “Alert” and shut the reactor down. Earlier this week a Cooper spokesman told Nebraska Watchdog a shutdown would occur over a period of 4-10 hours although it could occur “within three seconds” if necessary. The spokesman insists that there is no fear of a meltdown because Cooper “would be operating with power from off-site sources that would run the pumps and other equipment necessary to keep the reactor and spent fuel storage facility with cooling water.”
In the last 24 hours the NRC issued a statement noting among other things that “two feet of water” are onsite in many areas of the Fort Calhoun plant, located 19 miles north of Omaha.
The NRC says it has upped its around the clock coverage at Fort Calhoun which is operated by the Omaha Public Power District. In addition to the two resident inspectors “three more inspectors and a branch chief” are now at the plant along with satellite phones for key workers and extra food and water.
Fort Calhoun and Cooper remain under what are known as “Unusual Event” declarations, the NRC’s lowest emergency level.