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Nebraska Nuclear Plant: Emergency Level 4

Arnie Gundersen - Nebraska Nuclear Plant: Emergency Level 4 & Getting Worse - June 14, 2011 (PART 1 of 3)

PART 2:

PART 3:

Aerials of Fort Calhoun Nuclear Plant Flooding - No-Fly Zone Enforced as of June 14, 2011

 

Nebraska Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station Fire Left Plant's Spent-Fuel Pool in Danger - Alex Jones Tv - June 16, 2011

Arnie Gundersen Reports On Nebraska Nuclear Crisis & Fukushima Updates - June 16, 2011

The Real News: Rumers of Nuclear Power Plant in Nebraska - June 18, 2011

Fort Calhoun nuclear plant new Fukushima? June 20, 2011

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River falls short of Nebraska nuke plant shutdown

Associated Press: Timberly Ross - June 20, 2011

http://www.usatoday.com/weather/floods/2011-06-20-cooper-nuclear-plant-nebraska-flooding_n.htm

OMAHA, Neb. — The bloated Missouri River rose to within 18 inches of forcing the shutdown of a nuclear power plant in southeast Nebraska but stopped and ebbed slightly Monday, after several levees in northern Missouri failed to hold back the surging waterway.

The river has to hit 902 feet above sea level at Brownville before officials will shut down the Cooper Nuclear Plant, which sits at 903 feet, Nebraska Public Power District spokesman Mark Becker said.

Flooding is a concern all along the river because of the massive amounts of water that the Army Corps of Engineers has released from six dams. Any significant rain could worsen the flooding especially if it falls in Nebraska, Iowa or Missouri, which are downstream of the dams.

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. The corps predicts the river will remain that high until at least August.

Becker said the river rose to 900.56 feet at Brownville on Sunday, then dropped to 900.4 feet later in the day and remained at that level Monday morning. The National Weather Service said the Missouri River set a new record Sunday at Brownville when its depth was measured at 44.4 feet. That topped the record of 44.3 feet set during the 1993 flooding.

The Cooper Nuclear Plant is operating at full capacity Monday, Becker said.

The Columbus-based utility sent a "notification of unusual event" to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission when the river rose to 899 feet early Sunday morning. The declaration is the least serious of four emergency notifications established by the federal commission.

"We knew the river was going to rise for some time," Becker said Sunday. "It was just a matter of when."

The nuclear plant has been preparing for the flooding since May 30. More than 5,000 tons of sand has been brought in to construct barricades around it and access roads, according to NPPD.

The Army Corps of Engineers said the river level at Brownville had surged about 2 feet from Saturday morning to Sunday morning and that it continued to rise because of heavy rain on the Nishnabotna River, which flows into the Missouri River from Iowa, and due to some erosion along a levee upstream at Hamburg, Iowa, that created a water pulse.

The Cooper Nuclear Station is one of two plants along the Missouri River in eastern Nebraska. The Fort Calhoun Station, operated by the Omaha Public Power District, is about 20 miles north of Omaha. It issued a similar alert to the regulatory commission June 6.

The river has risen at least 1.5 feet higher than Fort Calhoun's 1,004-foot elevation above sea level. The plant can handle water up to 1,014 feet, according to OPPD. The water is being held back by a series of protective barriers, including an 8-foot rubber wall outside the reactor building.

Its reactor already had been shut down for refueling and maintenance since April, and it won't be turned on again until the flooding subsides.

The entire plant still has full electrical power for safety systems, including those used to cool radioactive waste. It also has at least nine backup power sources.

A spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said the NRC thinks OPPD managers have "done everything that they need to do to respond to the current conditions" at the nuclear plant.

Over the weekend, several northern Missouri levees failed to hold back the raging floodwaters, and the hole in a Holt County levee that ruptured last week continued to grow.

Recent rain increased the amount water in the already swollen river, and floodwaters from the breached levee south of Hamburg, Iowa, rushed back into the river over the weekend through a notch cut in the levee south of the last week's break.

The floodwater in Missouri has covered thousands of acres of farmland and soaked numerous homes and cabins. The recreational community of Big Lake, which is home to a state park and less than 200 people, is being threatened by the floodwater.

Most of Big Lake's residents have already evacuated. The area 78 miles north of Kansas City has been high for the past couple weeks, has experienced major flooding in three of the last five years.

The Real News: Nebraska Flood Alert - going to get much worse - June 21, 2011

Thom Hartmann: Nuclear Power - We almost Lost Nebraska- June 21, 2011

Nebraska Nuclear Power Plant on verge of shutdown - June 21, 2011

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Nuclear agency head to visit flooded Nebraska reactors

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/06/24/us-flooding-nuclear-idUSTRE75N6QP20110624

Reuters: Michael Avok - June 24, 2011

FORT CALHOUN, Nebraska - The chair of the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission will arrive in Nebraska Sunday to monitor preparations against Missouri River flooding at two Nebraska nuclear power plants, officials said Friday.

NRC Chair Gregory Jaczko will visit the Cooper Nuclear Station south of Omaha Sunday and the Fort Calhoun plant north of Omaha Monday, said agency spokesman Victor Dricks.

During both visits, Jaczko will also be talking with NRC resident inspectors-- the agency staff who work on-site every day -- and plant officials, Dricks said.

Flood water up to 2-feet deep is standing on the site of the 478-megawatt Fort Calhoun plant, operated by the Omaha Public Power District, the NRC said Wednesday.

The utility has erected a water-filled berm around vital areas of the plant -- which shut in early April to refuel -- to protect the containment building and auxiliary buildings from up to six feet of water.

Heavy rains and snow melt have flooded the Missouri River valley, threatening towns from Montana to Missouri.

An NRC inspection at Fort Calhoun two years ago indicated deficiencies in the flood preparation area, which have now been remedied, the agency said.

The rising river is not expected to reach vital equipment at the 800-megawatt Cooper plant, located near Brownville, Nebraska and operated by the Nebraska Public Power District, the NRC said. Cooper is running at full power.

During the Fort Calhoun stop, the chairman will meet first with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials, then take a helicopter tour along the Missouri River to provide an overview of the flooding and measures being taken. Following the plant visit he will meet with executives of the utility.

"Both plants remain under the 'unusual event' declarations, the lowest of four levels of emergency notification," Dricks said. "We are maintaining close communications with the National Weather Service and the Army Corps of Engineers."

Fort Calhoun will stay shut down until the water recedes, Dricks said.

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Floodwaters surround nuke plant after breach

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/06/26/us-usa-nuclear-plant-idUSTRE75P21X20110626

WASHINGTON: Jun 26, 2011

(Reuters) - A tear on Sunday in a temporary berm allowed Missouri River flood waters to surround containment buildings and other vital areas of a Nebraska nuclear plant, but reactor systems were not affected.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said the breach in the 2,000-foot inflatable berm around the Fort Calhoun station occurred around 1:25 a.m. local time.

More than 2 feet of water rushed in around containment buildings and electrical transformers at the 478-megawatt facility located 20 miles north of Omaha.

Reactor shutdown cooling and spent-fuel pool cooling were unaffected, the NRC said.

The plant, operated by the Omaha Public Power District, has been off line since April for refueling.

Crews activated emergency diesel generators after the breach, but restored normal electrical power by Sunday afternoon, the NRC said.

Buildings at the Fort Calhoun plant are watertight, the agency said. It noted that the cause of the berm breach is under investigation.

NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko and other officials planned to visit the site on Monday.

Jaczko will also visit the Cooper Nuclear Station near Brownville, Nebraska, another facility that has been watched closely with Missouri River waters rising from heavy rains and snow melt.

But water levels in that area 80 miles south of Omaha are receding, relieving worries that water will rise around the Brownville plant.

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Nuke Plant Inspections Find Flaws in Disaster Readiness

ProPublica.org: John Sullivan - June 29, 2011

http://www.propublica.org/article/nuke-plant-inspections-find-flaws-in-disaster-readiness

The Fort Calhoun nuclear power station, in Fort Calhoun, Neb., is surrounded by flood waters from the Missouri River on June 14, 2011. (Nati Harnik/AP Photo)

A special inspection of U.S. nuclear plants after the Fukushima disaster in Japan revealed problems with emergency equipment and disaster procedures that are far more pervasive than publicly described by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a review of inspection reports by ProPublica shows.

While the deficiencies don't pose an immediate risk and are relatively easy to fix, critics say they could complicate the response to a major disaster and point to a weakness in NRC oversight.

The NRC ordered the inspection in response to the March earthquake and tsunami that crippled Fukushima's reactors. The purpose was to conduct a fast check on the equipment and procedures that U.S. plants are required to have in place in the event of a catastrophic natural disaster or a terrorist attack.

Agency officials unveiled the results in May, stating in a news release that "out of 65 operating reactor sites, 12 had issues with one or more of the requirements during the inspections."

But ProPublica's examination of the reports found that 60 plant sites had deficiencies that ranged from broken machinery, missing equipment and poor training to things like blocked drains or a lack of preventive maintenance. Some of the more serious findings include:

At the Arkansas Nuclear One plant outside Russellville, several portable pumps dedicated to flood control didn't work.
At the Clinton plant outside Bloomington, Ill., a fire pump broke down during a test.
At the Sequoyah plant outside Chattanooga, Tenn., inspectors couldn't find drain valves needed for flood control.
At the Diablo Canyon plant in California, a fence blocked the path for a hose to pump emergency water.
Plant officials said they have moved to fix those problems and that none would have prevented them from responding in an emergency. The NRC told ProPublica that all the issues raised by inspectors "fell well short of being imminent safety concerns" and were being addressed.

In a summary attached to the inspection findings, however, the NRC expressed some concern.

"While individually, none of these observations posed a significant safety issue, they indicate a potential industry trend of failure to maintain equipment and strategies required to mitigate some design and beyond design-basis events," the summary says.

The NRC reported fewer problems at the plants than ProPublica because it only counted those in which a plant had a problem demonstrating how its emergency preparedness plan would work. The agency said that, despite these questions, all the plants could protect their reactors.

The special inspection covered equipment and procedures for use in disasters that are beyond the scope of the plant's design -- major earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, hurricanes and terrorist attacks.

Many of the items covered in the special inspection are supposed to be checked by NRC inspectors on a regular basis. Items that were required after the 9/11 attacks to respond to large explosions and fires -- like extra pumps, hoses and generators -- are supposed to be reviewed as part of regular triennial fire protection inspections.

David Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer with the Union of Concerned Scientists, says the large number of problems uncovered in the special inspection shows that NRC must strengthen oversight.

"I think they need to look at the inspections," said Lochbaum, whose group monitors safety matters. "Why did they find so much in these inspections? Shouldn't these have been found sooner?"

Nuclear plants conduct emergency drills every two years, and Lochbaum said that one possible improvement would be for inspectors to check the condition of the emergency response equipment then.

Mary Lampert, executive director of the advocacy group Pilgrim Watch in Massachusetts, said many of the deficiencies uncovered by the NRC may seem minor but could quickly turn into bigger problems in an emergency situation.

"They all add up. They cannot wait for a disaster to start looking around for a screwdriver that is required to open a valve because time is typically of the essence," she said.

Lampert said it is important for the NRC to keep an eye on the problems they found and not simply assume the nuclear companies will fix everything.

The Fukushima accident has focused the NRC's attention on the risk that a natural disaster or attack could knock out a plant's safety systems for an extended period and lead to a radiation release.

Although all plants are designed to withstand natural disasters, U.S. nuclear facilities are aging. Recent studies have shown that earthquake risks are now higher than they were predicted when some plants were built, although the NRC says reactors can still withstand the highest expected quake. Now historic flooding on the Missouri River is testing design limits at two Nebraska plants.

Flood waters are expected to come within a few feet of levels the Fort Calhoun and Cooper nuclear plants were built to withstand. At Fort Calhoun, a special berm providing backup protection collapsed Sunday after being damaged. Operators briefly turned on emergency diesel power but said there was no risk to reactor cooling systems. The plant has been shut down for refueling since early April.

On April 1, the NRC launched a task force of senior agency managers to examine the ability of plants to respond to events that might overwhelm existing safety systems and procedures. The panel is concentrating on disaster preparedness and the ability to survive a lengthy blackout, as at Fukushima.

The six-member group is scheduled to report its findings to the commission on July 19, and the NRC has held two briefings on the subject so far. Until the task force reports back, the NRC said it would not comment on what, if any, changes the agency might propose.

The Union of Concerned Scientists and other watchdog groups have said that Fukushima points to the need for some obvious improvements, such as adding backup generators and moving used nuclear fuel out of cooling pools and into safer storage locations.

The nuclear industry's main trade group, the Nuclear Energy Institute, is teaming up with the Institute for Nuclear Power Operations and the research organization the Electric Power Research Institute to develop disaster preparedness guidelines for nuclear companies, said Thomas Kauffman, a spokesman for NEI.

Kauffman said U.S. nuclear plants have survived hurricanes, tornadoes and extended power outages without damage to their reactors, but the industry is looking hard at Fukushima nevertheless. "We want to take the lessons learned and make sure they are applied across the industry," he said.

Chairman Gregory Jaczko raised the issue of emergency preparedness this month at an International Atomic Energy Agency conference in Vienna. According to a copy of his speech, he brought up the post-Fukushima inspection results.

"While I see nothing that calls into question the safety of our plants, I see areas where performance was not as good as would be preferred," Jaczko said. Changes are likely, he added, "although it is too early to say right now precisely what those changes might be."

Jaczko visited the Nebraska plants this week and declared that, while flood conditions were likely to continue for some time, the plants are safe.

"Water levels are at a place where the plant [workers] can deal with them," Jaczko said at Fort Calhoun on Monday, according to the Iowa Independent. "The risk is really very low that something could go wrong."

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Relief at Nebraska nuclear plant as Missouri floods recede

http://www.usamarketnews.com/major-business-news/4268/relief-at-nebraska-nuclear-plant-as-missouri-floods-recede.html

On Wednesday July 13, 2011, The Nebraska Public Power District officially called off the alert raised at the southeast Nebraska nuclear power plant as the floodwaters of the Missouri River rose at a threatened pace.

The notice of the catastrophic event, ushered on June 19, was terminated by The Nebraska Public Power District on Tuesday at the Cooper Power Plant owing to the visible decline of the Missouri River water level on Wednesday morning by 895.5 feet above sea level.

The utility team of Nebraska acknowledged that the 899 feet above sea level rise in the river water led to the issuance of the alert. In the meanwhile all the operations of the southeast Nebraska nuclear power plant were executed at the Cooper Power Plant.

The level of the river will continue to decline slowly unless it is not further affected by any major rain storms. As a measure of precaution, most of the flood barricades are decided to be kept at the Cooper power Plant by the Utility.