Fort Calhoun Nuclear Plant Flooding


Missouri floodwaters surround the nuclear plant at Fort Calhoun, just north of Omaha, Nebraska. Kent Sievers/The World-Herald, published June 30, 2011

Finally, some sanity is voiced on the issue of the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Plant flooding! In a recent interview, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers claimed that Nebraska’s two nuclear plants along the Missouri, Fort Calhoun and Cooper, were not being taken into consideration as the Corps determined how to manage dam releases and flooding along the Missouri. Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson captures my thoughts exactly when he says this is “hard to believe”, and that the status and vulnerability of the nuclear plants should be a top priority in the Corps’ flood management decisions.

I’d like to be able to trust the statements coming from the NRC, OPPD, and COE regarding the flooding and the safety of the plant. However, confidence erodes when their stories keep changing from day to day. When I began following this story, word was that the plant was safe because it was protected by a few barriers: a concrete wall around the main electrical transformers, and an inflatable water berm surrounding the plant. A few days later, after the berm failed and the concrete wall was breached and then patched, we were told that yet other safety measures were the “real” security, functioning normally. What will happen when those safety measures fail, though? And has anyone bothered to ask or report on why someone was operating a Bobcat so close to the berm at 1:30 in the morning, resulting in the puncture? Do we have any information about why the concrete wall was breached, or how a patch can manage to be sufficient under these difficult circumstances?

Sure, it’s unlikely that all the conditions necessary to create a serious hazard at the plant could occur, but on the other hand, why aren’t the authorities taking this more seriously than the COE appears to be? Why aren’t they telling us details about the problems that have already occurred, and why aren’t news outlets asking these questions–either insisting on answers or reporting that they aren’t getting appropriate answers? When I hear a decent account of a) what was happening that caused the flood berm to be breached, and b) why OPPD and the NRC were previously speaking as if the flood berm was an important layer of protection, yet suddenly changed to regarding it as superfluous after the breach, then maybe I can trust more of what these folks are saying. Until then? Nah.


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