Market Commentary and Intraday News
Nebraska nuclear plant not restarting soon
304 days ago
By JOSH FUNK
(AP:OMAHA, Neb.) Utility workers continue inspecting the Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant, but it's not clear whether the plant will be ready to restart in September as Omaha Public Power District officials hoped.
The nuclear plant about 20 miles north of Omaha is being scrutinized closely by regulators because it has been offline since April 2011 and several safety violations have been found.
"We have a lot of work left to do," OPPD spokesman Jeff Hanson said Wednesday.
Officials from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and OPPD held another public meeting about Fort Calhoun on Tuesday to answer questions about the plant.
Fort Calhoun was initially shut down for routine refueling maintenance in 2011, but flooding along the Missouri River and the safety violations regulators identified forced it to remain offline.
Violations include a small electrical fire in June 2011, the failure of a key electrical part during a 2010 test and deficiencies in flood planning that were discovered a year before last summer's extended flooding along the Missouri River.
State and federal officials say Fort Calhoun's problems never represented a threat to public safety. But the Sierra Club of Iowa has asked federal regulators to consider revoking the plant's license because of its history of safety violations.
Omaha Public Power District officials had said they hoped to restart the plant in September but would adjust the timeline as needed if any additional issues are found.
Federal regulators say there is no set timetable for restarting the plant.
Hanson said September remains the utility's target, but inspectors have found a couple of issues during inspections that will make it more difficult to reach that goal.
For example, in May OPPD workers found a flaw in one of more than 50 heaters that help maintain the temperature of the water used to generate steam at its nuclear plant. The steel shield that surrounded the heater had a small crack in it.
OPPD workers discovered the problem with the heater before a leak could develop because they were following up on a similar problem at a British nuclear plant. Replacing that heater took several days.
Officials with OPPD and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission say they won't allow Fort Calhoun to resume generating electricity until they are certain the plant is safe.
Because the plant is offline, the utility has to purchase electricity from other sources to meat peak demand during the summer heat. However, OPPD doesn't expect that to lead to increase electricity rates.
Last year, OPPD spent about $32 million to buy electricity from other sources while Fort Calhoun was closed.
NRC page on Fort Calhoun: http://1.usa.gov/GBq2TF Omaha Public Power District: http:// www.oppd.com
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