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.

Fort Calhoun Nuclear Plant – A 2013 Update

Lara Uselding
Public Affairs Officer
Region IV

fcsAs we turn the page on a new year, the NRC is watching closely as the operators of the Fort Calhoun nuclear plant, located in Omaha, Neb., are working around the clock in hopes of returning the plant to service. It remains to be seen if the NRC is convinced the efforts of the Omaha Public Power District’s (OPPD) are sufficient.

The plant has been powered 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.

On Jan. 8, OPPD officials and the NRC Fort Calhoun Oversight Panel members met before the five-member NRC Commission to discuss the current plant status. Positive change is on the horizon. “They [OPPD] are looking at problems with a different set of eyes today,” said Mike Hay, NRC Branch Chief and panel member. Some NRC Commissioners also noted the efforts by OPPD management to turn things around. It is also clear more work needs to be done.

In November 2012, the NRC issued a detailed inspection plan listing some 450 items that require attention, inspection, and resolution. Many of these items are subsets of the familiar issues that have been reported over the past two years including the breaker fire, flood strategy concerns, containment penetrations, and containment internal structures issues.

In 2013, there will be numerous NRC inspectors carrying out a very rigorous inspection schedule. A five-member team has already been on site for two weeks to independently verify results from a third-party safety culture assessment done last year. As part of the inspection, NRC held focus group interviews with plant works to assess the current climate and help the NRC understand how in tune management is with staff. Later in February, these results will be used to fuel a second, larger team inspection to fully assess human performance and safety culture at Fort Calhoun.

There is more to come. There will be an announcement soon with details for the next public meeting in Nebraska. The staff will continue to post updates and helpful information to the Fort Calhoun specific Web site.

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