Fort Calhoun: A Status Update

Lara Uselding
Public Affairs Officer, Region IV

The NRC will hold a public meeting March 27 to discuss the status of the Fort Calhoun nuclear plant, located 19 miles north of Omaha. As many know, the plant has been shut down since April 9, 2011, for a refueling outage. The outage was extended due to historic flooding along the Missouri River followed by an electrical fire that led to an “Alert” declaration and further restart complications.

We’d like to bring readers up to speed on where we are since January’s blog update and share four new updates.

First, the NRC recently revised the Confirmatory Action Letter (CAL) we originally issued in June 2012, outlining actions Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) had agreed to do before restarting the plant. The revisions added three categories to the restart checklist – OPPD will address containment internal structure issues, the use of Teflon seals on electrical cables passing through containment, and several event reports involving recently identified equipment problems.

This was followed by an update to the detailed 450+ action item list known as the basis document to reflect the three new CAL categories. After conducting independent verification of OPPD’s work, the NRC has closed more than 100 items on the basis document list, although none of the 18 restart checklist categories have been closed.

fcsThe third update is that a 15-member NRC inspection team led by a veteran Senior Resident Inspector Greg Warnick, stationed at another plant, has been on site conducting a thorough inspection and independent verification of Fort Calhoun’s current safety status. The team inspection will provide the NRC a real sense on how much progress OPPD has made in preparing plant systems, structures, components, people and processes for restart. The inspectors are using the basis document’s 450+ items as their guide.

Fourth, an inspection report issued yesterday, lists two NRC-identified issues, including a failure by OPPD to get NRC approval before making changes to the plant’s flood protection strategy. Inspectors also identified that OPPD failed to address a 2012 violation involving six sluice gates and motors that control the flow of water from the Missouri River into the plant’s cooling system. By not following the process to classify these sluice gates as safety related, the intake structure may not properly protect the cooling water system and pumps during a flood.

The public is encouraged to join us in Omaha for the meeting where the NRC staff will be available to answer questions about these topics.

Author: Moderator

Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

15 thoughts on “Fort Calhoun: A Status Update”

  1. In answer to your questions:

    The spent fuel cooling pool level was in its normal range. The temperature was approximately 80 degrees. There was an approximate 5 degree increase in temperature in the approximately 4 hours the cooling pumps were without power. There was no release of radiation.

    No, neither the pumps nor the electrical system are submersible.

    I am unfamiliar with the term “keep out radius,” but there were no restrictions for public access before or after the event. As you may know, there is main Highway 75 running in front of the plant and the site is visible from the road. The electrical fire did not prevent the public from normal access in any radius around the Owner Controlled Area, nor prevent citizens from independently measuring radiation.

    Lara Uselding

  2. What was the cooling water level and cooling water temperature of the spent fuel pool during the electrical problem? Was there release of any radioactive pollution as a result of the problem?

    Are the pumps for the cooling system submersible pumps? Is the electrical system submersible?

    Why was there a keep out radius for the public during the electrical problem aftermath? Were any citizens allowed within the radius to make independent measurements for radioactivity?

    Please answer these questions. The Fort Calhoun NPP and its spent fuel pool are a great danger to the entire Corn Belt.

  3. This does not explain why the NRC and OPPD are both keeping the 2nd geo-testing report from the public. People were not asking for the NRC’s final determination on the issue, they were asking for the actual report that both NRC and OPPD have in their possession and seem unwilling to share with the public.

  4. The Karst formations are part of the ongoing geotechnical review by the NRC. Geotechnical is one of over 450+ items on the CAL that must be closed out prior to restart. This information is still being reviewed by senior geotechnical experts at the NRC and will be used to determine if that item can be closed on CAL.

    Lara Uselding

  5. I would like to know if the Karst formations (limestone crumbling into gravel) – where the pillars of the plant are anchored – we are lead to believe – have in fact gotten worse with the flooding. This is only natural to assume since hydrological conditions play a big factor in the creation of those formations. The chosen build site was significantly worse than the original site and now we apparently have a cover up on the second report – what gives? NRC – post a link to that report on this BLOG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. To SafetyAdvocate: Please reread my comment, I am talking about the *original* design basis flood level, not the 1014 feet which was developed well after the plant was constructed. Even back in 1967 we were not so foolish as to establish the plant grade (near 1004 feet, as I recall) at ten feet below the flood elevation. Once the plant is sited and built, the Army Corps of Engineers may revise or update their studies, but you can’t jack the plant up. Adopting new procedures and other temporary measures to deal with a changing design basis should not be penalized.

  7. The public KNOWS OPPD and the NRC are just outright lying about this second report not being available. It is done and in the possession of both OPPD and the NRC. There is absolutely no reason for it not to be made public. It is bound by OPPD & state open records laws to be on their end. It is bound by US open records laws and the existing FOIA Beyond Nuclear has on the NRC’s end. One of the two parties needs to give the public a copy of this report.

    The NRC’s mandate is public safety, not industry promotion/protection. Provide a copy of the report. We don’t need the NRC’s final opinion of the report in order to be allowed to look at it.

  8. Anonymous, you are mistaken. The latest NRC inspection report cites OPPD’s continued, long-standing failure to come into compliance regarding Fort Calhoun’s current design-basis external flooding event—protection up to 1,014 feet mean sea level. As early as June 2010, the NRC cited Fort Calhoun’s failure since 2003 to take appropriate corrective actions to maintain its external flooding design basis. See IR 2010007, reported July 15, 2010, ML101970547. Several NRC inspection reports since have continued to point out this deficiency at Fort Calhoun in its various permutations.

  9. On October 30, 2012 I requested both the first and second geo-tech reports from OPPD as I am allowed to do under our Nebraska Open Records Act. We were told at the April 2012 NRC meeting in Blair by the Ft.Calhoun plant manager that the first report, done by HDR, was in and that it showed the flood of 2011 did no harm. Later, at the July 2012 NRC meeting this same individual denied that this first report was completed.

    At the September 2012 meeting in Blair, OPPD stated that the first geo-tech report would be available on September 18 with the second report due on September 28. Around the first or second week in October I was informed by a NRC whistle-blower that both reports were finished and the long awaited second report was currently being reviewed by staff engineers at the Region 4 office in Texas.

    On November 5, 2012, I received an email from OPPD saying that the HDR report was available for inspection along with the following comment about the second report–“While that was scheduled to be issued on September 28th, there has been a delay from the vendor. We expect the report to be issued in final form in the near future. Once OPPD receives the final report we will contact you so you can review that document as well.” They said this even though I told them that I knew the second report was done and was being reviewed by Region 4.

    So why is everyone who has a copy of this second report trying to keep the public from seeing it? I understand that it is on a disc, so send me the CD and I’ll give you 2 blank ones in return. I don’t need to hear that the NRC can’t do it–just send it.

    You can send it to Paul Gunter at Beyond Nuclear if you prefer, because it falls within his FOIA request to the NRC from last May or June for all materials that relate to the 2011 flooding at FCS. So far the NRC FOIA folks at NRC headquarters have not honored his request.

    We in the public know that we have been lied to and are still being lied to . What are you trying to hide from us? We don’t need for you to waste our tax dollars feeding us a bunch more bureaucratic BS about how you can’t deliver the report. Just provide the public with the second report–PERIOD!

  10. You would need to ask the plant directly for a copy of the report, as it’s not the NRC’s report. But be assured that we will release our independent inspection results as soon as we’ve completed the work.

    Lara Uselding

  11. The second report is done and both OPPD and NRC have copies of it yet this information is still not being shared with the public. The public has a right to see the actual second report from the geo-testing firm.

  12. The NRC has discussed this topic at previous public meetings and videos of these discussions are available online here: Also, geotechnical studies are an item in the Confirmatory Action Letter and must be addressed before restart.

    The licensee has completed nearly 18 months of extensive geotechnical studies to thoroughly analyze the effects from the 2011 floods at the site. A third-party review of this information has been completed and supports the professional consulting firm’s report. It has also received an extensive review by geotechnical experts in the NRC. A second professional firm has been hired by OPPD to do some additional analysis. This information is still being finalized by the consultant and will be reviewed by senior geotechnical experts at the NRC.

    The information on the NRC inspections and findings will be publicly available.

    Lara Uselding

  13. The way I read that inspection report, the NRC is beating OPPD up for making improvements to their strategy for responding to flooding that exceeds the original design basis flood for the plant. That just doesn’t make sense to me.

  14. Is the NRC going to address the geo-testing issues? Will the second geo-testing report that looked under the reactor building and aux building foundations be made public? The public deserves some real answers about this.

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