By Joe Jordan | Nebraska Watchdog
OMAHA — The financial and political costs of Omaha Public Power District’s troubled nuclear power plant at Fort Calhoun are mounting.
The plant, which has been shut down for 18 months due to safety violations and flooding fears on the Missouri River, is being blamed in large part for a proposed 6.9 percent rate hike in 2013, and two possible Election Day losses on the eight member board of directors.
In August OPPD inked a 20-year $400-million contract with Exelon Corp., the largest owner-operator of nuclear power facilities in the country, putting Exelon in charge of Fort Calhoun’s daily operations. On Tuesday the utility tied the rate hike, which would add $88 a year to the average residential customer’s bill, to Fort Calhoun.
“The cost of this contract, and the associated re-start costs, play a significant role in this proposed increase,” OPPD said in a statement posted to its website. The utility also notes that”despite all efforts to control costs” it is running $60 million in the red for 2013.
Three OPPD board members running for re-election to their public offices were saddled with the plant’s problems.
One incumbent, Treasurer Mike Cavanaugh, won easily, but that can’t be said for director Lloyd Scheve or board chairman N.P. “Sandy” Dodge.
Scheve lost 59-40 to former state Sen. Mick Mines.
With a few thousand provisional ballots still to be counted, Dodge trails Tom Barrett by 36 votes.
OPPD had hoped to restart Fort Calhoun in early December but that appears unlikely.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission meets with OPPD officials Thursday night in Blair.
The OPPD board is expected to vote on the possible rate hike at its December 13 meeting.