By Joe Jordan | Nebraska Watchdog
An unexpected last minute move to get the troubled nuclear power plant at Fort Calhoun up and running — it’s been unplugged for nearly 16 months — was no surprise to top officials with the Omaha Public Power District.
“It’s been talked about at the highest levels over the last few months,” OPPD director John Green tells Nebraska Watchdog.
The OPPD board voted unanimously Thursday night to turn the operation of its publicly owned nuclear reactor over to a private firm, the Chicago based Exelon Corp.
The board’s decision came with little if any public warning.
On Friday OPPD spokesman Jeff Hanson told KVNO radio, “The contract was not ready to be placed on the agenda until the night before last,” Hanson said. “But it was placed on the agenda … within the laws of the state of Nebraska.”
What began as a routine refueling operation in April 2011 turned into major safety concerns during last year’s flooding along the Missouri River.
The flooding, coupled with a fire at the plant, found the Nuclear Regulatory Commissionplacing Fort Calhoun on a rarely used watch list.
This year more problems erupted.
As Nebraska Watchdog first reported on April 27, a ”non-licensed supervisor” was determined to be under the influence of illegal drugs.
A crack was discovered in a pressurized heater May 23.
The NRC has yet to OK the reactor’s restart, but OPPD officials said the Exelon decision will help get the plant on line sooner than later, possibly by the end of the year.
Green told Nebraska Watchdog that the decision to bring in a private company was born out of necessity and is not the beginning of the end of public power in Omaha.
“I don’t see where that’s the camel’s nose under the tent,” said Green.
But he also made it clear that OPPD was running out of options.
“I worried about (privatization) until I decided there wasn’t anything else we could do.”
The details of OPPD’s tentative contract with Exelon have not been released.
The deal could be signed this week.
Contact Joe Jordan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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