UPDATE: The Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is making a two day stop in Nebraska. NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko will be in the state Sunday and Monday. According to a statement from the NRC Jaczko will “observe Missouri River flooding and the flooding preparation” at Nebraska’s two nuclear power plants. The statement goes on to note that “an NRC inspection at Fort Calhoun two years ago indicated deficiencies in the flood preparation area, which the licensee has now remedied.” Jaczko is scheduled to tour the Cooper plant on Sunday and Fort Calhoun on Monday, meeting with NRC inspectors at both plants along with plant officials. He is also scheduled to meet with reporters Monday afternoon in Omaha.
When the man in charge of the country’s nuclear power shows up in Nebraska for a firsthand look at the state’s nuclear facilities which are being threatened by the Missouri River, he’ll find two operations that are considered safe but are no strangers to federal investigations, including a year old examination of flood concerns.
As Nebraska Watchdog first reported Gregory Jaczko the Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) will visit the state soon, possibly Monday.
Jaczko’s stop comes while the Cooper Nuclear Station in Brownville is under scrutiny following an April incident that found three workers exposed to radiation. According to the Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD), which runs Cooper, the accident did not cause any apparent injuries but was “unacceptable.” The NRC wants “to understand why normal work practices were not followed.”
In 2009 NRC inspectors found that the Fort Calhoun Station, which is 19 miles north of Omaha, came up short in the face of possible flooding. NRC records specifically state that the plant’s “flood protection strategy was not fully effective during worst-case Missouri River flooding scenarios.”
The NRC required Fort Calhoun, which is run by the Omaha Public Power District (OPPD), to plug its flood holes. According to a May 16, 2011 report the NRC appears satisfied that Fort Calhoun has gotten its act together. The report notes, “Comprehensive corrective actions…have been developed.” OPPD is expected to file a follow-up report with the NRC by August 30.
Fort Calhoun and Cooper remain under what are known as “Unusual Event” declarations, the NRC’s lowest emergency level.
Governor Dave Heineman (NE-R) told KVNO radio he’s confident Nebraska’s two nuclear power stations are safe, and is glad the NRC Chief plans to visit.
“I trust the judgment of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the leaders of our two nuclear power plants,” Heineman said. “They’re the ones in charge. Obviously, with all the water around, we’re all concerned. But they’ve protected those plants very well, and we’re very confident that we’ll be okay in that regard.”
Fort Calhoun shut down for a refueling outage on April 7 and OPPD has decided not to restart the plant until the Missouri’s flood waters back-off. Nevertheless the Flood of 2011 has stirred plenty of concern and questions. OPPD has even taken the unusual, to some unheard of, step of confronting hearsay and gossip. On its website OPPD now includes a page designated for “Flood Rumor Control.”
Despite rising water Cooper is still operating. As of Friday 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.
Reported by Joe Jordan, firstname.lastname@example.org
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