National

Regulator: Neb. nuke plants safe

OMAHA, Neb. —The nation's top nuclear power regulator said Monday that both of Nebraska's nuclear power plants have remained safe as they battle floodwaters from the bloated Missouri River.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko visited both Fort Calhoun and Cooper nuclear power plants in eastern Nebraska this week to see how the utilities that run them are coping with the flooding. Both plants sit on the river.

The Omaha Public Power District's Fort Calhoun is the subject of more public concern because the floodwaters are closer to that plant. Nebraska Public Power District's Cooper plant is more elevated.

Jaczko's visit to Fort Calhoun Monday came one day after an 8-foot-tall, water-filled temporary berm protecting the plant collapsed. Vendor workers were at the plant Monday to determine whether the 2,000 foot berm can be repaired.

"We don't believe the plant is posing an immediate threat to the health and safety of the public," Jaczko said.

Omaha Public Power District spokesman Jeff Hanson said pumps at Fort Calhoun were handling the problem and that "everything is secure and safe." The plant, about 20 miles north of Omaha, has been closed for refueling since April. Hanson said the berm's collapse didn't affect the shutdown or the cooling of spent fuel.

Missouri River floodwater seeped into the turbine building at a nuclear power plant near Omaha on Monday, but plant officials said the seepage was expected and posed no safety risk because the building contains no nuclear material.

Jaczko said the Army Corps of Engineers doesn't expect the river to rise enough to cause additional significant problems at either of the nuclear plants in Nebraska.

"Bottom line, it looks like the levels are going to be at a place where the plant should be able to deal with it," Jaczko said.

OPPD officials say Fort Calhoun is designed to be protected from floodwaters up to 1,014 feet above sea level — that's about 8 feet higher than the river's current level. And the latest prediction from the Corps of Engineers is that the river won't rise more than 2 feet above its current level near Fort Calhoun.

Jackzo inspected the Cooper Nuclear Station, which sits on the Missouri River about 75 miles south of Omaha, on Sunday. He asked plant officials and the NRC's local inspectors questions about the plant and this year's flooding.

The plant, which is owned by Nebraska Public Power District, remains dry because it sits at an elevation above the river and continues to operate at full capacity. The base of Cooper and its storage area for used nuclear fuel is 903 feet above sea level. The river was 900.2 feet above sea level early Monday.

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