Climate-pumped Flood continues to Threaten Nebraska Nuke
June 28, 2011
On Monday, the Omaha Public Power District was studying whether it could patch and refill the temporary water dam that burst. When the dam ruptured, it allowed floodwater to fill in around the plant to a depth of more than two feet, said OPPD spokesman Jeff Hanson.
Sunday’s development offers more evidence that the relentlessly rising Missouri River is testing the flood-worthiness of an American nuclear power plant like never before. The now-idle plant, 19 miles north of Omaha, has become an island. And unlike other plants previously affected by high water, Fort Calhoun faces months of flooding.
Hanson said a piece of heavy equipment moving sand on the dry side of the water-filled dam, “brushed up” against it, causing it to rupture. The utility disconnected from the grid because the river water leaked through a cement barrier installed to protect the plant’s main transformer.
“It did not work; it did not keep the water out,” he said.
Last week, federal regulators augmented their inspection staff at Fort Calhoun. In addition to the two resident inspectors, three more inspectors and a branch chief were added to provide around-the-clock coverage.
Both the plant’s operator, OPPD, and federal regulators say the plant remains safe.
But what happens if the river keeps rising?