Fort Calhoun: Heat-Up, But Not Start Up

Lara Uselding
Public Affairs Officer
Region IV

Following a two-and-a-half year shutdown, Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) is ready to heat up Fort Calhoun’s reactor coolant system to inspect for any leaks. Heat-up is not the same as restarting the plant. The plant has been shut down since April 2011 for a refueling outage. The outage was extended due to historic Missouri River flooding followed by an electrical fire and other restart complications.

Fort Calhoun Station is heating up the reactor coolant system to ensure that the pipes carrying high pressure water or steam do not have leaks. Rather than heating up the reactor using the fission process, OPPD will use the reactor coolant pumps to heat up water and get steam flowing through the system. NRC inspectors are on site to observe licensee activities as well as perform independent inspections to ensure there are no leaks.

In early October, OPPD submitted a license amendment request seeking NRC permission to use a different methodology to evaluate high-pressure pipe breaks. OPPD has to demonstrate that if a high pressure pipe ruptures, that it would not negatively impact nearby equipment.

On Oct. 25, after reviewing public comments and additional information provided by the licensee, NRC approved this license amendment. OPPD did plant modifications and has performed calculations that show a potential pipe rupture will not affect nearby equipment. NRC inspectors are independently verifying the licensee’s analysis and modifications.

In addition, the staff has finalized its review of OPPD’s request to be exempt from the NRC’s fatigue rule which sets work hour limits in support of plant heat-up activities. The NRC’s fatigue rule puts limits on certain workers’ weekly hours to protect against fatigue. For example, during a refueling outage, a worker is allowed to work up to 72 hours every week versus an average of 54 hours over six weeks.

Before the NRC issued the exemption, the staff ensured that workers will have sufficient time to rest prior to working additional hours in support of the heat-up activities.

In addition, the NRC is continuing independent review of the remaining restart checklist items.

Next steps include preparations for the next public meeting whereby staff will update the public on NRC’s oversight status. No decision about restart will be made at that meeting.

Author: Moderator

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

17 thoughts on “Fort Calhoun: Heat-Up, But Not Start Up”

  1. There is good news associated with the disaster at Chernobyl. The accident created a huge radioactive waste dump site. The Ukraine’s four other nuclear power plants dispose of their spent fuel inside the 20-mile radius exclusion zone of Chernobyl.

  2. Update on effects of a Chernobyl-type accident at the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station (FCS) north of Omaha. Fact: Even after 25 years no one is allowed to live within 20 miles of Chernobyl. A Chernobyl-type accident at FCS would make Omaha a ghost town as over 1,000 square miles would be declared an exclusion area.

    STATE: Nebraska
    County: Washington
    TOWN: Fort Calhoun, about 65 miles (100 km)
    of Lincoln, the state capital
    OPERATOR: Exelon Nuclear
    OWNER(S): Omaha Public Power District
    CAPACITY: 479 MW
    UNIT(S) : Combustion Engineering two-loop
    pressurized water
    FUEL: Nuclear
    DISPATCH: Baseload
    COST: $754.65 million (2007 USD) according to
    the U.S.
    1966 – Construction started
    1973 – Unit enters service
    2002 – OPPD files with NRC to extend the plant’s
    40-year operating license for another 20 years
    2003 – NRC renews operating license for 20 years
    2033 – License expires

  4. I also would like to know what was the word on the spent fuel pool? Did it make contact with the flood waters?

  5. It appears that Action Item should be a specific plant restart item and not a follow-on long term action. Also this action item looks back at the 2011 flood only and does not take into account a catastrophic loss of the upstream earthen dams on the Missouri River. It is obvious that should these dams have failed during the 2011 flood, a tsunami-type event would have made the current Design Basis Flood Elevation woefully inadequate.

  6. Although flood waters did not reach a level that would allow it to make direct contact with the spent fuel pool, the flood waters threatened plant electrical equipment that is located at a much lower elevation. The loss of that electrical equipment would result in the loss of the ability to cool the radioactive fuel not only in the spent fuel pool but also in the reactor itself.

  7. A Chernobyl or Fukishima disaster in the midwest US would be absolutely devastating. Vast areas would be rendered uninhabitable and additional areas would no longer be viable for agriculture. Even areas relatively unharmed would have the stigma of being close to the disaster area and products from those areas would not be purchased for human consumption. The focus must be on preventing such a disaster for the consequences are truly horrific.

  8. Thanks for the prompt response. Are any of the planned NRC actions slated to be completed as a requirement for restart of the Fort Calhoun Station? Why or why not?

  9. The NRC’s recognizes the need to address the cascading dam failure flooding issue at nuclear power plants and it is currently being addressed by two agency organization activities: 1) the Japan lessons Learned Directorate (JLD) charged the NRC staff to address the Fukushima near-Term Task Force (NTTF) Recommendations that address flooding and ; 2) The Research arm of the NRC is looking at this issue under its Generic Issue-204 research entitled “Flooding of Nuclear Power Plant Sites Following Upstream Dam Failure.” And 3) the 0350 increased oversight panel is conducting a flood analysis.

    Lara Uselding

  10. Your statements are vague and hyperbolic. What does “screwed up” mean? Even a catastrophe on the scale of Chernobyl would not cause the “nation’s breadbasket” to be “ruined forever”.

  11. As historic Missouri River flooding extended Fort Calhoun’s outage, will an NRC-mandated flooding analysis be required to be completed before the plant is allowed to restart? As I understand the requirement, this flooding analysis must take into account not only unprecedented river flooding but in addition must assume failure of the upstream earthen dams. This in effect would threaten the plant with a tsunami-type event.

  12. Just remember, if it gets screwed up, the nation’s breadbasket will be ruined forever. And what was the word on the spent fuel pool? Did it make contact with the floodwaters?

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: