– A Nuclear Plant’s Flood Defenses Trigger a Yearlong Regulatory Confrontation (New York Times, June 24, 2011):
Pictures of the Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant north of Omaha, Neb., show it encircled by the swollen waters of the Missouri River, which reached a height of nearly 1,007 feet above sea level at the plant yesterday.
The plant’s defenses include new steel gates and other hard barriers protecting an auxiliary building with vital reactor controls, and a water-filled berm 8 feet tall that encircles other parts of the plant. Both systems are designed to hold back floodwaters reaching 1,014 feet above sea level. Additional concrete barriers and permanent berms, more sandbags and another power line into the plant have been added. The plant was shut down in April for refueling and will remain so until the flood threat is passed.
“Today the plant is well positioned to ride out the current extreme Missouri River flooding while keeping the public safe,” Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Victor Dricks said on an agency blog this week.
But a year ago, those new defenses were not in place, and the plant’s hard barriers could have failed against a 1,010-foot flood, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission contends in a yearlong inspection and enforcement action against the plant’s operator, the Omaha Public Power District (OPPD).
– The NRC in Action at Fort Calhoun (Monthly Review, June 27, 2011):
The Union of Concerned Scientists often complains about Nuclear Regulatory Commission inaction — the agency’s failure to enforce its regulations prohibiting unmonitored and uncontrolled releases of radioactively contaminated water, the agency’s tolerance of four dozen reactors operating in violation of fire protection regulations, and so on.
Today, we commend the NRC in action.