Nebraska’s Fort Calhoun Nuclear Plant Flooded

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By Jerry CollamerThe makeshift flood berm “holding floodwaters from” Ft. Calhoun Nuclear Plant collapsed at 1:30 Sunday morning and the plant was operating on emergency generators as workers hooked up an off-site source of electricity later in the day.  According to Reuters, more than 2 feet (60 cm) of water rushed in around containment buildings and electrical transformers at the 478-megawatt facility located 20 miles (30 km) north of Omaha. Missouri River floodwater seeped into the turbine building on Monday, but plant officials said the seepage was expected and posed no safety risk because the building contains no nuclear material.

Matt Miller, The World-Herald

The auxiliary building at Ft. Calhoun, listed among the nation’s 14 most dangerous nuclear plants,  was surrounded by water after the 2,000-foot berm failure according to a federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) letter.

While meltdown danger continuing at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi is equivalent to about twenty Chernobyls, Fort Calhoun constitutes about twenty Fukushimas. This because it stores an immense amount of nuclear fuel in its cooling pool. Not arranged like Fukushima’s elevated bathtub-pools, this structure is eighty feet deep (forty feet under ground).

The NRC letter stated that if water entered the auxiliary building, there could have been a station blackout with core damage in hours. Federal regulators said they had inspectors at the plant monitoring the situation and there was no danger according to AP.

Water surrounded the auxiliary and containment buildings at the plant, NRC said in a statement.

AP reports that Jeff Hanson said the aqua dam wasn’t critical to protecting the plant but a crew will look at whether it can be “patched.”

Flooding remains a concern all along the Missouri because of massive amounts of water the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released from upstream reservoirs,” reported AP today.

 “The river is expected to rise as much as 5 to 7 feet above flood stage in much of Nebraska and Iowa and as much as 10 feet over flood stage in parts of Missouri.” Water now surrounds the auxiliary and containment buildings, which are designed to handle flooding up to 1,014 feet above sea level. The river is at 1,006.3 feet and isn’t forecast to exceed 1,008 feet.
 
 In the June 24 New York Times article, A Nuclear Plant’s Flood Defenses Trigger a Yearlong Regulatory Confrontation, it was explained:

[…] At 1,010 feet, water would begin to enter the auxiliary building, “shorting power and submerging pumps. The plant could then experience a station blackout with core damage estimated within 15 to 18 hours,” under a worst-case scenario, the NRC said. […] 

NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko will tour the plant Monday. Today, he is touring Cooper Plant, Nebraska’s other nuclear power plant that sets aside the Missouri River near Brownville.
 
The owner of the station, Omaha Public Power District has set up a “flood rumor control” page to reassure the public that there has been no release of radioactivity from the plant. An electrical fire June 7 did knock out cooling to its spent fuel storage pool for about 90 minutes, but the coolant water did not reach a boiling point before backup pumps went into service, it has said.
 
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