Fort Calhoun – A Mixed Report Card

Lara Uselding
Public Affairs Officer, Region IV

nebraskaNRC inspectors held a public meeting in Omaha, Neb., on May 17, to share preliminary information from a recent restart readiness inspection at the Fort Calhoun Station, operated by the Omaha Public Power District (OPPD). The plant entered into the NRC’s increased oversight category in 2011 after it shut down for a refueling outage. The outage was extended due to historic Missouri River flooding followed by an electrical fire and other restart complications.

The meeting is one in a series we’re holding to keep the public informed. The 15-member team of inspectors looked at 169 out of more than 450 items that need to be resolved prior to the NRC making a decision on restart. The team recommended closing three of the 18 main categories known as the restart checklist. The three areas the team believes OPPD has appropriately addressed are third-party safety culture assessment, quality assurance, and integrated organizational effectiveness.

In essence, the plant’s officials have made improvements on some of the causes that led to the performance decline.

It’s important to note that as the team prepared for the inspection and began its review of the 169 items, they identified that 66 of those items were not fully ready for inspection as plant management stated. That means NRC inspectors were only able to fully inspect 60 percent of the original scope and will go back for a follow-up inspection.

While OPPD has made progress, there is still a lot of work to be done. The team found the plant hadn’t done a good job of evaluating whether a discovered condition exists in other areas of the plant and then implementing actions to address it. Because of this, the NRC has determined a number of restart checklist items are not ready for closure. In addition, NRC inspectors identified new performance deficiencies. Those preliminary findings still need to be evaluated by NRC management and results will be documented in the team’s inspection report. The report will be issued within 45 days.

The NRC will conduct follow-up inspections to look at the remaining open performance areas and to determine if plant personnel, equipment, and processes are ready to support the safe restart and continued safe operation. There will be additional public meetings in the local area before any decision about restart.

Author: Moderator

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

11 thoughts on “Fort Calhoun – A Mixed Report Card”

  1. lara, is ft.calhoun one of the 31 reactors which must strengthen their hydrogen vents as per the announcement of the ruling on such released on 6/7/’13? is this item on the restart checklist? has oppd been planning on such upgrades? thx.

  2. Really? Adequate protection – like the water bladders breaking – that protection? Or the backup generators catching on fire and seriously injuring a worker – like that? Or breakers that aren’t in spec – and catch on fire spontaneously? Adequate protection to me means three lines of defense – primary, secondary, and tertiary – the primary backup systems failed. There have been hundreds of deficiencies identified since the flood – none of which to my knowledge were comprehensively “backed up” prior to the flood. Pumps failing, teflon that was removed in most plants in the 80’s still in vulnerable/sensitive locations, floors not properly supported with the weight of machinery, leaks in areas that were not supposed to leak (and the public was lied to about) – the list is nearly endless. It is time to start telling the truth and stop candy coating this Fukushima on the Missouri. Please stop the baseless assertions that everything is safe and always has been. That is an obvious lie. Maybe the NRC needs to be the next department to be investigated after the IRS. Come on – you guys are better than that.

  3. As far as I know, the NRC still has OPPD as the licensed operator. Exelon are only contract operators until the OPPD board and management are through milking the company. OPPD will default on their bonds soon (if they haven’t already) and declare bankruptcy as soon as the cash is gone.

    I certainly don’t have a beef with the NRC inspection team or the working staff at Ft. Calhoun. They were never part of the problem. Both teams have had to work within the constraints of layers of broken organizations that seem eternally intent on thwarting their efforts. That’s the real problem here. Whether it’s cheapskate utility execs or deranged politicians, the corrosive effect on talented staff is unmistakable. These organizations are sick and drive good people away.

    *That’s* what makes these plants unnecessarily risky for everyone. I can fix a corroded cooling-pump bolt and update engineering documentation. What I can’t possibly do (for any length of time) is go out and find someone who understands why that problem even exists, knows how to fix the technical environment that permitted it, and THEN: not quit out of frustration in a year or two because of politics, autistic budgeting or some director’s yacht payments increased. That’s how TEPCO has always been run. See the problem?

  4. OPPD isn’t operating the plant anymore. Exelon is trying to turn it around, and if you’ve been following the Ft. Calhoun information over the last year, Exelon has found a LOT of stuff wrong with the plant and been fixing it. Things like teflon containment penetrations, inadequate anchor bolts for emergency service water pumps, and a full study into the ground/soil erosion concerns. Stuff OPPD has been blowing off for years. The teflon issue was something that EVERY OTHER nuclear plant in the country fixed in the 80s.

    Exelon being in there has been improving things, and if anything, its becoming more apparent just how mismanged the station was as the reorganizational efforts continue.

  5. The NRC responded to an idiotic demand by congress to show they are substantially self-funded through licensee fees. That only reinforces the current belief of 2/3rds of Americans that congress USUALLY does not act in the best interests of U.S. citizens. It has little to do with realistic or proper funding of the NRC. If I wanted the $275/FTE/Hr accounting equivalent of nuclear plant regulators and inspection teams, then I would move to Bangladesh.

    I’m still subject to the full spectrum of taxpayer-backed financial risk *every day* from Ft. Calhoun despite the broken-funding model of the NRC. OPPD management is just gaming the system, acting like a spoiled child that does not want to pick up it’s toys. It is a mini-TEPCO wannabe through and through. In case of disaster, the big shots simply move on. Employees and contractors are left to take the dose, and taxpayers will always end up paying for their own decontamination and relocation.

    OPPD management was rewarded every year for their Wal*Mart-cheap nuclear generation. If OPPD can’t afford to staff, maintain and upgrade Ft. Calhoun today, then they should get completely out of the nuclear power generation business. Stop terrorizing the country. Censorship won’t work next time.

    *NO* utility has some God-given right to run a profitable but understaffed, broken-down wreck of a nuclear plant upwind of anyone else. No OPPD ratepayer has a right to cheaper-than-average electricity by spreading the risk out to someone else’s kid.

  6. The NRC collects 90% of its total budget from the plants. Additionally, inspections at plants are billed to the utility. It doesn’t come from the taxpayers.

  7. 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.

    The plant has adequate protection, as demonstrated during the last flood, to keep the plant in a safe shutdown condition during flooding. At the NRC, our focus is on the safe operations of U.S. nuclear power plants in addition to ensuring they have plans in place to protect against natural disasters that may affect the site.

    Lara Uselding

  8. So the NRC inspectors were duped by OPPD to fly in and waste their time when the plant was only a little over half-ready for inspection. I expect OPPD to milk U.S. taxpayers for all the FEMA money they can grab, but when did they decide THEIR time was more important than taxpayer-funded NRC inspection teams? I don’t suppose OPPD or it’s ratepayers want to pitch in a few million for the time and effort of a second inspection? U.S. taxpayers are getting weary of OPPD’s reliance on eternal federal welfare to keep their money-losing utility afloat. Charge your ratepayers enough to maintain your fossilized equipment yourselves.

    Hard to be angry at OPPD when regulators are so publicly slapped around and respond thusly:

    “…The three areas the team believes OPPD has appropriately addressed are third-party safety culture assessment, quality assurance, and integrated organizational effectiveness…”

    Seriously? Good God… don’t the inspectors have to pass drug tests? We’re in big trouble when the inspection team’s trip is wasted (well, *half*-wasted) by lying OPPD management and the inspectors STILL conclude that the above three categories were adequately addressed. Three of 18 categories down, only 15 to go!

    OPPD is an electric utility. They lost both trains of spent-fuel cooling power because they’re too cheap to buy modern switchgear. When they are forced to buy modern parts – like the replacement circuit breakers – they have to make sure to disable features that are meant to ENHANCE safe and effective operation. Then the electric utility installs them without even checking to make sure the feature was disabled? Corrective action: make sure you check that your vendor configured electrical equipment like they said they did.

    Good job!

  9. Did the temperature rise in the spent fuel pool after the electrical problem?

    The US Army COE blew levees in southeast Missouri to prevent downstream flooding of towns. Was there ever any contingency plan to blow levees to prevent a Fort Calhoun overheat, either the reactor or the SFP (or both)?

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