Keeping Fort Calhoun’s Tornado Analysis Up To Date

Scott Burnell
Public Affairs Officer

When someone mentions the Fort Calhoun plant in Nebraska, flooding issues are probably what comes to mind these days. But the tornadoplant has to withstand everything that Mother Nature can throw at it and tornadoes, obviously, are in the mix.

Fort Calhoun’s been doing some work recently that has the plant operator asking the NRC for permission to revise how its license specifies how to determine tornado effects. Fort Calhoun’s request fits into its ongoing efforts to resolve the issues that have kept the plant shut down since early 2011. The plant, about 19 miles north of Omaha, Neb., has already reinforced several areas of the site against potential tornado damage based on analysis with an NRC-approved method.

That method uses more realistic criteria related to the impact of flying debris in a tornado. While that tornado analysis method is approved, Fort Calhoun’s license still reflects older information, so the plant needs to formally bring the license into line with the analysis method’s criteria.

Fort Calhoun’s owner, the Omaha Public Power District, believes their proposed license change won’t affect the plant’s overall risk of an accident, and the company’s asked the NRC to review the request using a faster process. If we agree a quicker review is appropriate, we could come to a decision on the license change within a couple of days and then offer an opportunity for a public hearing after the change.

More information on Fort Calhoun’s request is available on the NRC’s website, and we have a notice in the local paper as well. Our public meeting in Omaha tonight will discuss our inspection activities and the overall progress Fort Calhoun has made in addressing agency concerns, as well as this most recent request.

Author: Moderator

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

6 thoughts on “Keeping Fort Calhoun’s Tornado Analysis Up To Date”

  1. The NRC is obviously not a neutral watchdog over the commercial nuclear power plant industry. The piece on plants being designed to withstand anything Mother Nature throws at them is pure pro-nuclear propaganda. Putting a positive spin on anything nuclear is already the mainstay of nuke plant owners and their industry cohorts. You talk about Mother Nature but what of Father Terrorism?! Nuke plants are still very vulnerable to both. Who is really looking out for the public in all this, we’re OK you’re OK, regulatory environment. This attitude breeds nothing but complacency and a cavalier approach to safety issues. These NRC blogs are just one-sided pro-nuclear propaganda. Never are real problems or technical issues addressed.

  2. Update: I have learned that the NRC has required Fort Calhoun and Cooper Stations, among other plants, to reevaluate their flood hazard reports by March 12, 2014. This reevaluation must take into account flooding due to multiple upstream dam failures. Intuitively, it seems that multiple upstream dam failures are a much worse prospect than the record recent Missouri river flooding that occurred with no failure of the upstream dams. Therefore, until these additional flood analyses are completed, Fort Calhoun should remain shutdown and Cooper should be shutdown.

  3. So we go from flood protection (or lack of it) to tornado protection. How about earthquake protection? The NRC I believe is looking into that for all nukes. Big question though with regard to nukes along the Missouri River, Fort Calhoun and Cooper Stations. Upstream are those earthen dams on the mighty Mo. A tsunami would occur if any one of these dams failed. The nuke plants are designed to endure a so-called Design Basis Earthquake (DBE). Are the upstream dams designed to withstand the same DBE?

  4. Thanks – I’ll watch for it. Honestly, the NRC should just let them reopen as soon as possible. The faster they’re allowed to restart, the faster they can start the management bonus program to hide problems from the NRC (just like Cooper’s brilliantly successful program) and the faster they can resume their internal witch-hunt for any budding nuclear safety squealers. No news is good news.

    Bond holders will be happy, the NEI will be happy, Ft. Calhoun employees will be happy (at least until they see how OPPD stole their pension funds). Nebraska will have the other half of it’s safe, cheap nuclear power once again. Rainbows and unicorns everywhere.

    The NRC inspection team did a seriously impressive job, but some plants will just never get it – mostly by their own management’s design. Nobody can say you guys didn’t *really* try on this one, but Ft. Calhoun has that TEPCO thing nailed perfectly. Which will make their eventual acquisition by TEPCO go that much smoother.

  5. Love to hear how the OPPD meeting went, Mr. Burnell. Nothing like asking a local population economically dependent on the plant for their opinions on anything which speeds up plant reopening. I’m sure everyone is relieved to know that the main plant structures are adequately protected from the threat of flying cars in skinny tornadoes.

    OPPD is watching their opportunity for a couple of billion in (relatively) cheap bond refinancing disappearing in their rear-view mirror. They have tolerated Region IV’s safety inspection dog-and-pony show long enough. Everyone in the industry knows how and when this will end. Two billion in bond refinancing needed before the end of this year trumps whatever further PR value NRC can possibly attain from the ongoing questionable inspections.

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