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.

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.

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