U.S. NRC Blog

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An Era Ends at the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant

Victor Dricks
Senior Public Affairs Officer
Region IV

Shortly before 1 p.m. Monday, operators in the control room of the Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant pushed a red button, initiating an automatic shutdown of the reactor. So ended commercial operations for the nation’s smallest nuclear power plant, located along the Missouri River, about 20 miles north of Omaha, Neb.

fcsWhen it happened, just as it had done when the plant began operations 43 years earlier, the NRC had staff onsite to ensure events unfolded as planned, systems functioned as designed and public health and safety were protected.

“The shutdown was done in a very professional manner,” said Geoff Miller, a branch chief in the NRC’s Division of Reactor Projects, who oversees the plant from the NRC’s Region IV office in Arlington, Texas. By his side was Lindsay Brandt, a reactor inspector from the Region IV office, who also monitored the shutdown.

Max Schneider, the Senior Resident Inspector at Fort Calhoun, was in the plant monitoring the shutdown and checking to ensure that all plant systems responded as designed. “Everything went very well. There were no issues with plant equipment,” said Schneider, who reported to the site in June 2014 after serving as a Resident Inspector at the Pilgrim nuclear power plant in Massachusetts.

“I’ve watched lot of plant shutdowns prior to maintenance and refueling outages,” Miller said.  “Usually there is a lot of tension and excitement in the air in anticipation of events to follow but there was not a lot of that Monday. Things were subdued.”

The Omaha Public Power District’s Board of Directors voted several months ago to shut down Fort Calhoun for commercial reasons.

Brandt will remain at the plant for another three or four weeks and then return to the NRC’s Region IV, where she will resume other duties. Schneider will remain onsite for six months to a year to monitor post shutdown activities and ensure a safe transition from commercial operations to decommissioning mode.

Inspectors from the NRC’s Region IV office will conduct periodic inspections to ensure that spent fuel is being stored safely and securely in the plant’s water-filled spent fuel pool and in dry cask canisters while it remains onsite. The NRC will also conduct periodic inspections of decommissioning activities.

Within 30 days, Omaha Public Power District officials are expected to submit a letter to the NRC certifying the permanent cessation of commercial operations and stating that all of the radioactive fuel has been permanently removed from the reactor vessel. When this happens, OPPD will have surrendered its authority to operate the reactor or reload fuel in it. They have two years in which to file a report with the NRC, describing their plans for decommissioning the plant.

4 responses to “An Era Ends at the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant

  1. Public Pit Bull October 25, 2016 at 7:25 pm

    Sad to see Fort Calhoun end operation. I was privileged to work many years at the plant with some of the finest professional folks I have ever known.
    This article is sadly mainly about the NRC. I am sure this plant would not have operated so well without the NRC getting in the way at every step. NRC, don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back!
    Perhaps NRC you could have acknowledged that many fine people in Nebraska/Iowa will lose their jobs. Perhaps you could have thanked the local community for supporting the plant so well since its startup in the ’70s. Perhaps just a word also about all the reliable 24/7 electrical energy that was provided to the Omaha, Nebraska area all those years.
    But that I know NRC that is not what you are about.

  2. Rod Adams (@Atomicrod) October 25, 2016 at 2:05 pm

    Given the fact that the output of Ft Calhoun will be replaced by a combination of wind, natural gas and coal that will inevitably raise our total production of CO2, is the NRC fulfilling its mission to “to protect public health and safety, promote the common defense and security, and protect the environment?”

    This plant was shut down “for economic reasons.” A substantial contributor to the higher than average cost of operating the plant came as a result of NRC actions that even the agency admits are not directly tied to public health and safety.

    The plant’s owners incurred additional costs to add security after 911, to add gear and personnel after Fukushima and to dig itself out of the column 4 position it landed in as a result of a couple of low safety implication deficiencies discovered after a major flooding event.

    Our representatives in congress did not establish a regulatory agency that was supposed to protect us at any cost FROM the minor hazards of radioactive materials at levels as low and possibly achievable. It created an agency to regulate the USE of radioactive materials so that those materials could contribute to the continuous efffort that society makes “protect public health and safety, promote the common defense and security, and protect the environment.”

    Rod Adams
    Publisher, Atomic Insights

    • stock October 25, 2016 at 3:24 pm

      Creating a nuclear bombs worth of radiation, every day, at a running nuclear plant, is NO WAY to protect the environment. How absurd is that.

      • Engineer-Poet October 26, 2016 at 12:29 am

        Creating a nuclear bombs worth of radiation, every day, at a running nuclear plant

        If you mean “fission products”, it’s MUCH more than that.  11 kilotons is about 4.6e13 J of energy.  At 1500 MW(t), it would be more like 2.8 Hiroshimas of fission products per day.

        The vast majority of them decay away inside their Zircaloy tubes in a few days or weeks after formation, doing nothing to anyone or anything.  They don’t even last long enough to become part of spent fuel.

        is NO WAY to protect the environment. How absurd is that.

        Whereas using our only atmosphere as a dump for megatons per year of CO2 is? 

        I’m looking forward to a series of suits against various lobbies and “foundations” to expose just who they’ve been paying to promote what against the public (and global) interest.  It would be very interesting to see whose names showed up as recipients of all that money… and maybe just how little money it took.

        Moderator Note: Some verbiage removed to adhere to comment guidelines.

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