APNewsBreak: More issues found at Neb. nuke plant

December 13, 2011 - 7:05 PM

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Several new problems have been found at a Nebraska power plant that suffered flood damage earlier this year, federal regulators said Tuesday, so inspectors will be watching the plant north of Omaha even more closely as repairs from the flooding are made.

The tougher oversight for the Omaha Public Power District plant in Fort Calhoun will likely further delay its restart from early next year until sometime in the spring as it makes repairs from the summer flooding. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said none of the new issues represents a public safety threat, but the growing number of problems, combined with the prolonged shutdown, requires more scrutiny.

Fort Calhoun has been shut down since April, when it was being refueled. Flooding along the Missouri River then forced it to remain closed as floodwaters surrounded the plant.

NRC spokesman Victor Dricks said the new problems at the plant include deficiencies in the Omaha Public Power District's emergency response and either a design or installation flaw that contributed to a fire in June. Inspectors also found flaws in the way the utility's analysis of how the plant would withstand different accident conditions such as earthquakes, tornadoes or loss of coolant.

The Fort Calhoun plant was already facing extra oversight because of the failure of a key electrical part during a test in 2010 and deficiencies in flood planning that were also found last year.

"In light of all that, the senior managers of the NRC are going to increase oversight at Fort Calhoun even further," Dricks said.

Utility officials began looking for ways to improve Fort Calhoun's operations earlier this year after the first couple of regulatory concerns were identified. The utility has submitted a detailed improvement plan to the NRC that regulators approved. The utility's chief nuclear officer, Dave Bannister, has acknowledged the performance problems at Fort Calhoun and promised to improve.

Bannister and other utility officials weren't immediately available to comment Tuesday afternoon.

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Online:

Nuclear Regulatory Commission: http://www.nrc.gov

OPPD Fort Calhoun plan: http://www.oppd.com/AboutUs/22_007203