June 21, 2011

Floods shut down 1 nuclear plant - raise worries about others

The Fort Calhoun nuclear power station in Nebraska remains shut down due to Missouri River flooding, but the plant itself has not flooded and is expected to remain safe, the federal government said Friday.
The rising river "has certainly affected the site, but the plant itself, the actual reactor is still dry," said Scott Burnell, Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman.
The 478-megawatt plant north of Omaha shut April 9 to refuel, and has remained shut because of the flooding, said Omaha Public Power District spokesman Jeff Hanson.
"When the river reaches 1,004 feet above mean sea level, we shut down," said Hanson. "We don't have any idea when we'll be able to start again."

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As record floodwaters along the Missouri River drench homes and businesses, concerns have grown about keeping a couple of notable structures dry: two riverside nuclear power plants in Nebraska.
Cooper Nuclear Station, located downriver and situated on higher ground, is still operating. Despite the official assurances of safety, the unusual sight of a nuclear plant surrounded by water — coming so soon after the still unfolding nuclear disaster that followed the earthquake and tsunami in Japan — has prompted concern and speculation.

Earlier this month, the Fort Calhoun plant briefly lost power needed to cool the spent fuel pool after a fire that remains under investigation. The Fort Calhoun plant, which sits nearly two feet below the current river level, has taken a number of protective measures.

Downriver, where the record water level set two decades ago has been broken, the Cooper plant near Brownville is still producing power.
The river would need to rise more than a foot and a half to force a shutdown, said Mark Becker, a spokesman for the Nebraska Public Power District, which operates the plant. "We'll continue to operate until we reach that level," he said.

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